SNACK TIME

Kazakhstan 2015 | AGRICULTURE & FOOD | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ruslan Idrissov, Director of Rustar Food, on the snack foods market, promoting key brands, and regional expansion.

Ruslan Idrissov
BIOGRAPHY
Born in the city of Kostanay, Ruslan Idrissov graduated from the Kazakhstan-Russian University in Kazakhstan. He later went on to earn an Executive MBA at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Russia. He has owned Rustar Food since 2009.

What are your main lines of business?

Snack foods are one of our most important areas of operation. This part of our group comprises three companies: Rustar Food, Snack Foods, and Rd Company. We are also importing food products from Russia and the EU. The company aims at selling a quality product rather than a brand name. We're also selling the packaged sunflower seeds “Ginn," and their market share is about 80% of the roasted sunflower seeds market; these seeds are produced in the city of Zlatoust in Russia by a Russian market leader called SMART, and we cover 98% of the Almaty and Zhambyl retail market. Our product is among the top 10 best sellers in concession stalls. We also represent a company called Polet who produce oatmeal cookies that are sold in all the major countries around the world. We represent the Ramensky confectionery enterprise, a leader of the Russian biscuit market. We represent Chernogolovki Beverages, which is Russia's third most popular brand after Coca-Cola and Pepsi. We also represent Agro-Alliance, one of the biggest grain producers in Russia, and market leader in the rice segment. We're representing the Bebetto brand of a Turkish company Kervan, which specializes in producing marmalades. Our company is the official distributor of these brands in Kazakhstan.

How do you position yourselves in a competitive local sector?

We only focus on quality products. This is the only way to fight off competitors; we sell the products we would eat and drink ourselves. The high quality of our products and services makes us a strong player at the local market. We are quite competitive compared to such giants as Wrigley and Mars because we are very flexible in meeting the changing market demand. When a sales representative places an order of a store, it gets to the server by 4pm so that we can assemble the batch. By 8am the next morning the products are ready for delivery to the store. We also tried to open branches in the northern part of the country, but after experiencing huge losses we had to shut them. Currently we're operating in three regions—Almaty, Zhambyl, and Karaganda. We have a development strategy that is based on our competitive advantage. We are now entering Russia's regional markets, the Northern Caucasus, and are considering Azerbaijani market.

How do you promote your brands?

We participate in numerous fairs where we meet potential partners willing to expand their sales. We're attending fairs in Dubai, Cologne, Moscow, and Istanbul, where we analyze Asia's and Europe's market trends and tendencies. We keep our eyes open for new tendencies and products that have already been successful elsewhere, in order to eventually introduce them to Kazakhstan's market. We'd also like to grow in other segments, such as cooled Angus meat, which has great potential in the country.

What are your plans for 2015?

Our company was established during the 2009 downturn, and now the country is going through another financial crisis. Thus, we would like to boost the development of our company and to attract new partners, increase the number of the personnel, and expand to new markets. We have a development strategy that carries through 2017. Currently the company employs 250 people. Over the past 15 years there has been no other Kazakhstani company who could show performance similar to ours. Our company Snack Foods, for example, is a young company that managed to motivate its staff to succeed in hard times—they are mainly working in snack and confectionery segments, ranging from sunflower seeds, pistachio and corn sticks, to cookies and biscuits. The company's share in the Almaty and Zhambyl regional markets is 98%. We guarantee prompt delivery in 24 hours, and we work with all the country's chains.