A recent survey by CVC Consulting, presented at a conference on the safety and quality of children's food last month, shows that while food brand advertisers are increasingly targeting young Russian consumers, the nutritional content of many of these products could, if the market is left unchecked, lead to serious health problems for Russians later in life.
More than half of the producers of food aimed at children questioned by CVC said that they were not satisified by the current level of legislation governing this sector. Not only are there few regulations designed to set minimum safety, quality and formulation standards for children's food products, they also tend to be somewhat arbitrary and do not take into account the specific concerns of food companies.
Furthermore, 80 per cent of those questioned said that they felt there needed to be a clear distinction between the regulations governing foods for children and adolescents and those for adults.
Julia Bychenko, project leader at market research company Komkon, said that Russian children were taking to 'junk' food at an increasingly young age. "At the age of 4-6, Russian children are already major consumers of potato chips (81 per cent), chocolate (78 per cent), crackers (71 per cent), chewing gum (70 per cent) and carbonated beverages (66 per cent).
"Once the children actually start going to school, the situation gets worse, as many children aged 7-8 receive regular pocket money, which means that they can buy their own snack foods. Almost half of junior school children buy chewing gum for themselves, while 42 per cent buy potato chips and 30 per cent buy carbonated drinks."
KOMKON research also shows that increasing numbers of children are eating 'adult' foods. According to the company, Russian mothers regularly feed their children (those over one year of age, at least) both children's and adults' foods (a factor influenced by the simple fact that adult foods are much cheaper than those targeted at children).
According to the Federal Agency on Technical Regulation and Metrology, it is RosPotrebNadzor (the Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Rights), the food research institute of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and other specialized organisations that should deal with the regulations governing foods targeted at children, including the standards for both manufacturing and marketing.
According to CVC's Mihail Mischenko, the children's food market in Russia is worth about $150 million at the moment, but could grow to as much as $300-400 million were foreign producers confident of investing there. At the present time, however, the lack of a coherent legal framework governing the sector has left most foreign groups extremely wary.