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Cottage cheese? Nothing simpler: we import!

25/05/2012 10:48

In 2003, by getting some Phare funds, the company LaDorna was opening a small factory to produce cheese cottage type in county of Suceava (village Dorna Arini). The plan seemed the best possible. The milk was collected locally with no much transport cost and the working hands were coming from the neighboring villages, being also quite cheap. Everybody seemed happy. The farmers were seeing their production put into value, and the jobs created seemed a balloon of oxygen for an area with unemployment over national average. A perfect model of win-win. All it needed was to last with the time.

In 2008 LaDorna business is bought by Lactalis group. A few tens of millions euro, which included among others the small Ortoaia factory. Nearly three years after this transaction, Lactalis decides to close the factory and to transfer the entire production capacity to Poland. The given reasons invoked the rentability of the unit but also the behavior of Romanian consumer, inclined more toward cream cheese Fagaras type than toward consume of cottage.


Cottage cheese, a niche product

Regarded through consumer behavior, the reason invoked by Lactalis is real. The Romanians are not great lovers of cottage cheese and the present consume places the product into a niche area. But there is a factor missing from the equation: the consumer can be educated, and consuming habit formed in time. But this requires a long or medium term strategy, with taking over of all the implications and costs coming out from here. The producers and the retailers can form in time such consumption habits and can also increase some items. And the tenacity and consistent of such commercial policies can slowly get the expected result. There is a long list of such examples, too long to be mentioned here. We shall limit ourselves to one single item: cottage cheese.

The waiver of the French from Lactalis did not definitely close the item for the Romanian market. There are a few distribution companies left in the first line having such items in their portfolio. They are made under producers' brand, imported and distributed nationally. They were joined by a few retail networks, who either by tradition or by desire to get the loyalty of small segment of consumers, took over or developed such item under their own private brands. For those who know and like the product, the surprise of its discovery on the shelves of the modern stores cannot but positively influence the decision to buy.


Austria, the preferred country for production of private brands

When monitoring the market we find now cheese cottage type in various retail networks under their private brands. The majority are networks of German origin, which either took over such items out of the assortment existing in their country of origin, or developed them especially for the Romanian market. Maybe the first item under private brand introduced in the assortment of a retail network was that of Billa, under brand Clever. Clever Cottage cheese 150g is yet a product created in Austria, especially for Billa network in Slovakia. The product comes on the shelves in Romania through Delaco Distribution who assure the entire logistic. Cottage cheese at 200 g package is also to be found in Lidl network. This time, Pic Frisch Cottage Cheese was developed for a group of 6 countries with Lidl networks, Romania among them. The import and distribution of the products is entirely made by the retailer, without other intermediaries. But like the Billa item, Lidl has chosen an Austrian producer.

The latest launch in this category seems to try to rule out the previous procedure. We talk about a product found in a French network, namely Cora. The recently launched item Cora Pearls of cottage cheese 200g is also of Austrian provenance and, surprise, from the same producer who makes the private brand for Lidl.

The presented products are examples of private brands launched by the retail networks. Even if the item is still in a niche segment, the retailers' perseverance is to be admired. Their tenacity in developing such items under their private brands is confirming the force of the modern retail and especially its capacity to form in time consumption habits and to enlarge categories. And at the end it is possible that all this work would prepare the ground for some local producers willing to address this product but also to offer the necessary conditions of development of future, new private brands.

Florin Frasineanu 





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