Russian drinks brand targets health market

Russia's classic soft drinks brand Chernogolovka has overhauled its product range for the modern, health-conscious consumer, but analysts warn it is entering a tough battle with Western giants.

The Ost Drinks Factory is famous for Soviet-style fizzy drink Chernogolovka, which it combines with bottling Pepsi and imitation Western alcopops at its vast Moscow factory.

But the firm has exclusively revealed to Russia Today it's overhauling its complete range for the soaring health-conscious market.

“Sport Time will be the first Russian super-premium water for restaurants and hotels only. It is a special mineralised drink, it has a patented silicon cap which blocks leaking. And we will launch five new premium cocktails based on Argentinian wine.

Such drinks have traditionally been used to put it bluntly for getting drunk, whereas these are to be enjoyed. The secret to all our drinks is the 300 MLN year old water on this site,” disclosed Aleksandr Afinogenov, Marketing Director of Ost-Group Chernogolovka.

Chernogolovka is launching at least 7 brands this year: an isotonic drink to compete with Coca-Cola's Powerade, an iodized water, a low-alcohol energizer with ginger and an energy drink containing the Brazilian Asai berry.

But analysts warn the plant will have a tough time breaking through with their own brands.

“Coca-Cola along with Pepsi own more than 70% of the bottled water market, with 350 Russian mineral waters battling for the rest. Chernogolovka has a good chance on the niche markets it has chosen but it is far from the crucial distribution network to match the Big Two,”shared her analysis Tatyana Bobrovskaya, retail analyst at BSC, Moscow.

Within a year Ost Group plans to double its share of the growing Russian alcopops market to 10%, currently dominated by Ochakovo and Greenall's Gin and Tonic which it currently produces for a St. Petersburg firm.

Chernogolovka mirrors the dilemma across Russian industry. Surrender to Western rivals with superior marketing, take them on at their own game, or come up with original Russian classics. This plant has perhaps the smartest solution – combine all three.