The growth of Italian wine in the Russian market: exports, influencers and inclusivity

Oct 4, 2021

Russia has been a key market for years and is still full of potential for the Italian wine industry. The 2021 edition of wine2wine Business Forum explores and offers a cross-section of the Russian market by advancing the discussion of this subject: in addition to an overview of the market, two modern and innovative topics will be addressed.  Focus on inclusivity  in the session “Women in the field of wine import in Russia,”  held by Irina Fomina, and  focus on communication and social media marketing in the session “Wine influencers: how are they doing in Russia?,” presented by Vlada Lesnichenko and Anton Moiseenko. Furthermore, the Forum provides two opportunities for direct networking with important Russian buyers.


Growth of the Russian Market

These focuses stem from the significant growth of the Russian wine market. Beginning as early as 2015, the past five years have seen the country climb 23 positions among the most attractive markets in the world for wine exports, placing itself at position 10. The long-term trend shows that the volumes of wine consumed, both Russian and imported from abroad, have gone from just over 60,000 cases in 2015 to almost 100,000 in 2019, at an average price of $ 3.90 per bottle. Per capita consumption also grew by + 14.7% between 2015 and 2019 and by + 18.3% between 2018 and 2019.


The share of wine arriving on the Russian market from abroad represents 29% of the total, and Italy stands out among the major exporting countries: throughout the first half of 2020 it was the leader among Russia’s supplier countries, with 101, 7 million euros of export turnover and a market share of 27.27%. The success described by the export numbers is also reflected in the consolidation of Italy as a brand among Russian consumers. Indeed, Italian wine is appreciated because it is offered in an extremely varied and high quality assortment, but also, and above all, as an expression – as with gastronomy and fashion – of the iconic Italian style, perceived as synonymous with elegance, taste and refinement.


In particular, Prosecco earns a significant place among the preferences of Russian consumers. For this wine,not only are purchases are growing, but its recognition among other Italian products and the curiosityregarding its characteristics and its history is also increasing. Imports from Italy are thus driving the volumes of sparkling wine in Russia, showing growth of + 12% between 2015 and 2019 and of + 20% between 2018 and 2019, with a market share that records peaks of 60.13%.


However, let’s not forget that as mentioned previously, the Russian market is still dominated by locally produced wines: if the share represented by imported wines from abroad is 29%, 71% remains to be explored. This, combined with the growing consensus towards Italian-produced wines, represents a significant potential for growth, an issue to which several speakers at the wine2wine Business Forum dedicate careful study.


New tools for new costumers: influencer marketing

Another aspect of the Russian market is currently attracting the attention of wine producers. The country is experiencing an evolution in the attitude of younger consumers, with a progressively greater involvement of Millennials: members of this demographic today represent 63% of wine consumers in Russia. It is also significant to note that, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the consumption of imported wines is increasing. These young drinkers tend to be more sophisticated citizens, who have traveled more and who have a more adventurous and curious view of the world, an approach that is also reflected in their respective wine choices. There is therefore an increase in consumers who wish to discover new wines, perhaps being guided by more experienced middle-aged consumers.


New targets and new ways of consumption require new strategiesMotivated by the interest in reaching and including this younger portion of the population more effectively, various professionals in the wine industry have decided to experiment with different promotion and communication techniques in the Russian market. Among these, it is relevant to mention the practice of influencer marketing. We mention as an example the initiative that the Chianti Wine Consortium implemented last April: due to the difficulties in physical travel during the pandemic, the Consortium decided to promote itself on the Russian market by selecting 10 influencers who enjoy a high reputation and incisive credibility in that area, reaching an overall audience of around 1.3 million followers and over 3 million viewers. The result: the first quarter of 2021 for the Chianti Wine Consortium closed with a growth in sales of + 4% (which is equivalent to approximately one million bottles) compared to the same period of 2020. An interesting result, especially considered that it’s even better than the first quarter of 2019, pre-Covid era.


Inclusivity up front

Looking at inclusivity driven by the desire to extend and recognize the right to participate: wine2wine Business Forum 2021 dedicates part of its space to the theme of women in the Russian wine industry, entrusting Irina Fomina with the task of presenting some reflections on women working within wine importing companies. The speaker is the founder and CEO of MBG Company (Moscow Business Group), a Russian import company founded in 1995 and whose portfolio also includes major Italian brands such as Antinori, Livio Felluga and Allegrini. For her particular merits in the promotion of friendship and collaboration between Italy and Russia and the promotion of ties with Italy, Fomina received the honor of Grand Officer – second highest class of the five achievable – of the ‘Order of the Star of Italy.


In the two meeting sessions with Italian wine producers on the second day of Forum 2021, Tuesday 19 October, there will be six women and two men participating. The appointments create an ideal intersection for supply and demand as they provide the opportunity for buyers and producers to meet in the same place,at the same time. As expected, the eight selected professionals who import Italian wine to Russia promote their business, presenting their companies to the public and answering the questions of the producers present. However, what constitutes the real added value for those present is that the buyers will disclose vitalinformation on which wines they are specifically looking for in the Italian market, as well as provide insights from the Russian market based on their experience in field operations.


Final thoughts

In short, the informative sessions concerning Russia and the related wine industry offered by wine2wine Business Forum 2021 are packed of inside insight and updated hard dataBetter yet, the opportunity to take advantage of the forum’s spotlight on opportunities in the Russian market for Italian wine does not end with 18 and 19 October. In fact, we remind you that, for admission ticket holders, the contents of wine2wine Business Forum 2021 will remain available online and accessible via a dedicated platform for the two months following the event.