How to find ‘coin’ in sour milk: real reasons for rumours about deficit of cultures

Producers of fermented milk products have had a chance to receive state support to develop culture production

The rumours about an upcoming deficit of cultures to make fermented milk products due to Western sanctions for the special military operation in Ukraine could be spread by their producers to get preferences from the Russian government. National Dairy Producers Union Soyuzmoloko offered such an expected version in a talk with Realnoe Vremya. Read more about the real and invented problems of milk producers, the unique Russian fermented milk product that isn’t subjected to any sanctions and the bonuses Tatarstan milk producers can collect because of these sanctions in our report.

Who chose the right supplier

After a discussion of the prospects of a deficit of foreign packaging for milk products Tatarstan already found a substitution for, analysts of the food market seriously started to talk about an upcoming shortage of cultures to make fermented milk products in Russian dairies. .

The fact that almost most of these enterprises have preferred making ryazhenka, sour cream, cottage cheese and other products without problem — with foreign dry cultures — in the last 30 years became a reason for concern. Russian producers’ cultures hold no more than 12% in the domestic market.

Dry cultures that are used in Russia and Tatarstan are made in Denmark, Bulgaria, Italy, and some experts have already announced that Russian enterprises will have to stop or minimise the production of fermented milk products in the next 5-6 months when the stocks of cultures purchased from producers earlier. And the products that the enterprises will continue making will suddenly go up in price because culture for them will have to be delivered in crafty and long detours. But Soyuzmoloko denies this and assures us that a deficit of cultures isn’t looming for Russian dairies.

“Both are right,” a representative of one of the Tatarstan dairies stroke a balance in a talk with Realnoe Vremya. “There are a lot of suppliers of cultures and bacteria now, both Russian and foreign. But certain enterprises adjust their infrastructure for a specific supplier. This problem hasn’t touched us because we work mainly with Russian culture producers, and our permanent suppliers guaranteed culture supplies in the long term. However, I think that some enterprises can problems with culture supplies, especially those who worked only with foreign cultures. Rebuilding logistic chains and switching to another supplier isn’t a task that isn’t performed quickly.”

Also, he noted that even such a strictly national “strategic” product as our Tatar qatiq is made from dry cultures today... for ryazhenka — only conditions change, the temperature and duration of fermentation.

Only kefir is made of “ours”

“Direct dry cultures without activation to make fermented milk products have never been made in the Russian Federation,” Yulia Tarasova, technologist with 37-year experience in the milk industry of the Republic of Tatarstan explained to Realnoe Vremya. “Neither kefir grains kefir is made of here are produced and used abroad. It is made of Russian grains only, Europe and America don’t drink kefir.”

Tarasova said that a lot of fermented milk products are made of foreign cultures in Russian enterprises — yogurts, ryazhenka, sour cream, cottage cheese, qatiq, acidophilus milk and others:

“Direct cultures are used for these products in the modern industry. In the USSR, cultures were made in bio factories in Uglich, Omsk, Moscow. Milk factories had fermentation shops — a big amount of culture was manually made of sterile milk in sterile conditions under the strict control of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog. It was separate production to restore and activate dry cultures to make a lot of cultures.”

According to her, to restore this production on the previous scale, shops and microbiologists are needed:

“The factories that have such shops don’t have problems today and won’t have theme when working with Russian dry cultures.”

But the enterprises that completely switched to using foreign cultures will inevitably have difficulties if they disappear from the Russian market, she confirmed the version the representative of one of the republican dairies voiced earlier.

“Foreign dry cultures are direct cultures. They are delivered in sterile packages, they are opened in the plant and immediately poured into a container where a fermented milk product is made.”

No deficit, is there financial interest?

“There is no deficit of cultures, this category hasn’t been sanctioned,” PR Director of National Milk Producer Union Maria Zhebit claimed. “The suppliers aren’t exiting from the Russian market. There is no foundation to assume there will be a deficit of fermented milk products.”

According to her, this topic in fact can be discussed for completely different reasons:

“We understand the logic: to ask for support for Russian producers because the high import component is plain to see here. Such an initiative was voiced by the union as early as last week — to support them so that Russian companies can expand their production. It is not bad to develop Russian production but it is necessary to understand that this task isn’t done in a day. Those suppliers we work with today have been in the market for decades, they are old players in this market. Also, it is necessary to buy equipment, it isn’t Russian today, while money, loans are traditionally more expensive here... It is not easy to set up new production, it is easier to expand the existing one.”

The representative of Soyuzmoloko confirmed that all local producers might get “bonuses” from state support and specified that nowadays the Russian market has enough room for ambitious business people because only two of several culture producers existing in the USSR have remained — an experimental bio factory in Uglich and bio factory in Barnaul, as well as several small local factories.

“Poorer” packaging, but it will be enough for everybody

At the same time, Zhebit said that it finally became possible to solve problems with packaging of milk products:

“There were issues with feedstock supplies for its production, it was solved. However, a simpler and more affordable product for the consumer remains a priority now — for instance, supplies of socially important categories such as milk are prioritised rather than juices or wines. Packaging production continues in Tetrapak, in Moscow Oblast. Shippings are done every day.

Earlier, the Russian milk union urged producers to switch to SIBUR’s polymer packaging.

Also, Maria Zhebit noted another problem — with paint for stamps on the packaging:

“Consumers shouldn’t be confused with pale images on the packaging — this isn’t a sign of counterfeit. There will be problems while new suppliers and logistic ways are looked for. But as soon as all the difficulties are over, the packaging will look the same. It is necessary to keep in mind that when the population’s incomes fall, enterprises reconsider their assortment considering the population’s demand.”

Inna Serova

Подписывайтесь на телеграм-канал, группу «ВКонтакте» и страницу в «Одноклассниках» «Реального времени». Ежедневные видео на Rutube, «Дзене» и Youtube.