The 15 Russian confectioners making up United Confectioners held a meeting with representatives of CAOBISCO, the European Union Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries, and Russian industry association ASCOND during a recent international conference on 'Confectionery in the 21st Century'.
The bodies used the meeting to discuss ways of co-operating together by exchanging knowledge on the industry and production processes, before CAOBISCO representatives were also shown round United Confectioners' biggest manufacturing plant to view the progress the group was making in its modernisation drive.
The representatives of all three bodies also examined issues surrounding tariff and price regulations in view of Russia's anticipated admission to the World Trade Organisation, penciled in for the end of this year by some observers.
The discussions were an important move for United Confectioners as the conglomerate looks to establish itself as a producer meeting international quality standards, and fuels speculation that the group is looking to increase its presence in European markets.
And the group went into the talks with a good confidence boost after winning 20 gold medals at the third Russian Parade of Confectionery Quality, which coincided with the conference.
ASCOND chairman V. Sarsahpin said he thought Russian confectioners would be well able to handle both domestic and international markets. "No matter the presence in Russia of a couple of international confectioners, the domestic field has enough to supply both the internal needs of the country as well as exports," he said.
United Confectioners' exports have already doubled within neighbouring former Soviet states and the group has also recently begun exporting to the US, Germany and Greece, amongst others.
Now, the group has stressed its key focus must be to modernise its factories, improve its distribution system and ensure greater consistency in its products.
L. Axenova, director of Russia's Institute of Confectionery said: "A very important issue in the manufacture of confectioneries is to provide proper quality of the products. Increasing quality, providing competitiveness of the products is a permanent product and it needs a well-organised system. We have to admit that an instrument for achieving the main target is to manufacture goods with stable and high quality."
United Confectioners has just embarked on a three-year initiative to manufacture goods at different factories using the same packaging, and print the factory code and producer's name on the packet in an attempt to wipe counterfeit products off the market.
The group has also built a central storage facility near Moscow, allowing its brands to be distributed more easily across the whole country.
United Confectioners, with its Babayevskiy, Rot Front and Iasnaia Poleana brands, is the biggest manufacturer of confectionery in Russia and is the leader in the field with a market share of around 14 per cent.
The group increased sales by around 14.5 per cent to $670 million in 2004.