The CUTIS project has organized a visit to Ukraine for Canadian distributors interested in finding reliable food and beverage suppliers for the Canadian market.
During the 10 days of the trade mission that Canadian business representatives spent in Ukraine, they visited Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Dnipro and Zaporozhzhia and met with representatives of more than 40 companies.
Yuriy Baranov, founder of CAALCO distributors corp., distributor of Yummy Market (Canada)
My company has been involved in the import of alcoholic beverages for the Canadian market for over 20 years, and at the moment I am considering expanding the import line with foodstuffs. I have a good track record of working with such leading Ukrainian alcohol companies as Bayadera group (TM “Hlibny Dar”), continue to negotiate with Alef Vinal (vodka Green Day, brandy Jean-Jack).
During the mission, I also established business relationships with such well-known companies as Petrus, Staritsky&Levitsky. A real discovery for me was the company “Ukrainian Medovary” from Drohobych, which restored almost lost recipes of Ukrainian natural beverages based on honey. A nice addition to the CUTIS program was a meeting with the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce management.
I personally visited 12 companies and had about 20 meetings with representatives of Ukrainian business. Most of them amazed me with the high production culture, quality of products, flavour profiles, professionalism of their teams. It feels like these companies have a clear export strategy, a creative team and are result-oriented.
I would like to emphasize the companies such as Beehive, Malby (TM Millenium), Klion group (TM Veladis), Lviv handmade factory, Bob snail, Bayadera, Bester. These companies have every reason to be optimistic about the future of Ukrainian exports to the global markets.
I am often asked what the main prerequisite for the success of a product in the Canadian market is. The answer is simple and complex at the same time: the product should be interesting to Canadian distributors and buyers.
If a Ukrainian company plans to target only the ethnic market and the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada this kind of expansion is 99% doomed. Indeed, the Ukrainian diaspora has more than 1.6 million people but the vast majority of them have no idea what modern Ukraine is and what kind of products it produces because their ancestors came to Canada before the 1917 revolution. True, they are loyal to everything Ukrainian, but they have grown up in Canada and usually consume local Canadian products they are used to.
I think it is optimal for a Ukrainian company to initially test their product in the ethnic market, to understand how interesting it is to Canadian consumers. Only if the product is in demand should they try to approach Canadian grocery chains and address such issues as customizing the name or developing the label to meet Canadian requirements (labels in Canada must contain information in 2 official languages – English and French). It’s worth starting with European-oriented networks such as Yummy Market or Starsky.
Michael Prudkov, Vice President of Crussimpex, a Canadian distributor company
Crussimpex is a food importer that cooperates mainly with small manufacturers and distributes throughout Canada.
Crussimpex already has experience working with Ukrainian companies, and we want to expand the mix of Ukrainian products in the Canadian market.
During the mission, I met with representatives of about 20 Ukrainian companies. The overall impression is positive. There are many decent manufacturers on the market.
In today’s world, however, having a good product is not enough. You need to be ready to invest in entering foreign markets.
I got the impression that not all Ukrainian companies understand how to promote and sell their goods abroad. Exports require extra costs: into skilled personnel, interesting packaging, promotion, marketing, etc. No way without that. In addition, the entry process takes more than one day – it is unlikely to send a huge batch for the first time. One needs to move step by step and heed the importer’s advice.
You also need to understand the specifics of each region. Canadian consumers, unlike American consumers, are very conservative. It is difficult to get them to buy a product they are not used to. Although geographically Canada is a huge country, the size of the market is small, and it is by no means comparable to the US.
I would also advise Ukrainian manufacturers to take a more prudent approach to the issue of pricing. On average, the wholesale price in the Canadian market is three times higher than the wholesale price in Ukraine. Talking about the retail price, the difference is 4-5 times. This includes logistics, distribution costs, retail margins, exchange rate risks, and more.
Not all Ukrainian manufacturers understand this math. They hear the word Canada and immediately inflate the selling price. Canadian consumers are quite sensitive to the price. With overstated prices, Ukrainian goods simply will not find a buyer in Canada.
What Ukrainian foodstuffs have the best chance on the Canadian market? These are definitely not meat or dairy products because they are subject to import quotas and the certification process is quite complicated.
Confectionery products have very good chances and the leaders of the Ukrainian market (AVK, Roshen, Biscuit-Chocolate) are already presented in the market. I think other Ukrainian companies can become a name and compete with Belarusian, Moldovan or Russian manufacturers.
Grocery manufacturers have a good chance: I want to try putting Ukrainian fishery products on the Canadian market.
In general, the chances of Ukrainian companies in the Canadian market are not bad. I think that the representation of Ukrainian goods will only grow. Specifically, if there is support from such programs as CUTIS and from the State.
Emma Turos, Executive Director of the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine
When entering a new market, not only Canadian, a Ukrainian manufacturer should listen to local importers who understand specifics of their own market much better. Sometimes they ask about five steps to success. The answer is simple – 5 Ps (product, price, promotion, place and people) that you read about in any guidebook. I would add another “P” – practice. Practice export activities on a daily basis, and everything will get clear. Understanding the process of entering a market and the sense of time and partner are very important qualities of an entrepreneur.
In most cases, it will be difficult to sell the product as it is marketed in Ukraine. In the food industry, you need to consider everything – product appearance, taste, preservation of tastiness and appearance over a long period of time (only transportation to Canada takes almost two months), packaging, labeling, product and brand name. The product name must be clear to the buyer, it must be international. The exception is ethnic markets. In this case, the name should meet expectations as much as possible. Simply speaking, if the label indicates that these are “Artek” waffles, then they should comply as much as possible with traditional taste and appearance. Buyers buy such products in order to experience the “taste of childhood”. By the way, Ukraine clearly under performs in this area. For example, there are so-called “Kyiv” cakes on the Canadian market. However, they are made in Moldova. There is also a general rule: if a brand is stronger than a product, the brand must be promoted. If the product is stronger than the brand, then the product is promoted. One may also operate here under private label. Ukraine has very few globally known brands, so one should be flexible about the product name and brand. We have cases where both the product and the name were changed to more universal ones.
Pricing is another sensitive issue. Ukrainian manufacturers must clearly understand their competitors in each market segment. In the ethnic market, for example, (gingerbread, cakes, bagels, candies, etc.) we compete in price and quality with Moldova and Belarus.
Two heads are better than one and if a company has a clear strategy and resources I would not recommend saving on expert services. Without knowing the market requirements and the preferences of consumers in other countries, mistakes can be made that they will cost a lot. Trying to re-enter a new market afterwards is very difficult, since the Canadian market, for example, is not that big, and the reputation will be difficult to restore.
We live in a global world of change where you have to constantly fight for your place but do that diplomatically and with a polite smile. I am deeply convinced that Ukraine still needs to take a worthy place in the global trade not only with resources but also with high value-added products.