Olga Svechnikova is helming Paulig’s Russian initiative as the group’s new SVP, Business Area East. During the past decade, she has seen the popularity of coffee skyrocket in Russia and believes that roast & ground has great near-future prospects, particularly when combined with other emerging trends such as eCommerce.
When Olga Svechnikova talks about her first month at Paulig in early December 2020, she says she is still in the honeymoon phase.
“I am enjoying every second of my work – but I do believe I will continue enjoying it beyond the initial phase.”
In November, Svechnikova started as SVP, Business Area East for Paulig Group and member of the Paulig Leadership Team. Based in Moscow, her focus will be on developing Paulig’s business in Russia.
As the strategy is already in place and she has found her team to be engaged, energetic and ready to go the extra mile with all the skills in their right places, her focus will be on prioritising.
“Overall, we will be looking at making our effort a bit more phased. In Russia, coffee is the key product portfolio-wise, so that is what will be our strategic priority number one. The other two strategic points of focus will be step-changing the profitability of Santa Maria, which is also sold in Russia, and developing the great capabilities of our team into something even greater.”
Large hypermarkets are going out of style
Ten years ago, Olga Svechnikova recalls, Russia was a country of tea drinkers with the portion of coffee standing at a marginal 10%. Now, the two beverages are almost head-to-head.
According to Svechnikova, the rise in popularity is due to investment and innovation.
“Coffee consumption is growing at double digits, more than many other beverage categories. In today’s environment, particularly imported goods are becoming more expensive and their consumption is plummeting – but not coffee. It is imported but still the consumption is increasing. This just shows that coffee has gained a meaningful presence in people’s lives – it has relevance beyond function,” she summarises, adding that she believes coffee will outperform tea within another decade.
At the moment, however, instant coffee is dominating the coffee market with roast & ground holding a smaller share of the market. Svechnikova sees this as an opportunity waiting to be realised, especially for Paulig.
“When you go to a supermarket and stand in front of the roast & ground shelf, you can see that Paulig has leadership presence and visibility there. However, within the entire coffee category, we are not yet at the leadership brand level when it comes to key brand attributes like awareness and penetration. But with Paulig’s great product and very healthy brand perception, I am feeling very optimistic about the future.“
Speaking of the future, there are two key trends Olga Svechnikova believes will shape the Russian food and beverage market.
The first one is the growing importance of proximity and convenience.
“Large hypermarkets further away from home are currently losing traction. People are moving back to doing their shopping closer to home as the small markets are more convenient and offer better value,” she says.
The other is eCommerce.
“At the moment eCom in Russia is more developed for categories like clothes, apparel, footwear and electronics. Although we don’t have any reliable data just yet, my feeling is that the food and drink eCom is about to rise in popularity.”
Olga Svechnikova is determinate that Paulig will be at the forefront of this trend.
“eCom has laws of its own – and in Russia, the way eCom works is a hybrid of how it works in Europe and how it works in Asia. We will need to put resource into understanding this emerging opportunity and develop a portfolio that serves it.”
Career: Like many in her generation, Olga Svechnikova has a degree from another field she built her career on; she studied computer science in Moscow Polytechnics University. She has built an impressive career holding marketing and management positions in several global companies, including executive positions at PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and P&G. Her latest job prior to Paulig was as Chief Operations Officer for an advertising agency DDB Russia.
Family and hobbies: Svechnikova is a mother of two kids: a 19-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. The family lives in Moscow. Her favourite hobby is downhill skiing, which she has practically done in every country where it is possible – even Chile, where she says skiing was an amazing experience. The only “skiable” country still unticked on her bucket list is Japan.
Last book you read: Several crime novels by Ann Cleeves. Svechnikova says reading is her second most favourite hobby and she always finds time for it, even if it was half an hour taken from the night’s sleep. She loves criminal mysteries, particularly those that take place in a foreign country, because reading them allows her also to learn about a new culture.