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Mabius: Cooking Up a Food Revolution Across Russia

Mabius CEO
Ivan Sidorok, creator of the culinary startup center Mabius (Mabius) (Courtesy NMGK)

Russians are fond of wholesome, locally produced, homemade foods. Whether it is a carry-over of the USSR, or simply a desire to consume healthy products, the Russian people trust local producers, despite the trend of globalized processing, and world food networks flooding the markets of the country.

The visionary behind the Mabius project, Ivan Sidorok is a Managing partner and member of the board of directors of Russian leading food producer Nizhny Novgorod Fats & Oils Group (NMGK Group).  If anyone knows the Russian food consumer well, it's the subject of Our Russia's interview you are about to read. 

Our Russia: What, in your opinion, distinguishes your company from other similar producers?

Ivan Sidorok:  Being Russia's first and the only food business-accelerator, the culinary startup center Mabius is a truly unique project for the Russian market. There are individual companies in Russia offering similar services such as mentoring, consulting, expertise, access to sales, but only Mabius connects the full circle of services for all kinds of entrepreneurs: from beginners to experienced businessmen.

The major role for Mabius is to help entrepreneurs create a stable business or extend running companies. Starting with a well-designed business plan, recipe development, marketing strategy and ending up with suppliers search and entering the major retail networks- that is the path entrepreneurs go along with the specialists and experts of the Center. An even brighter side of this journey is that the Center is open for investing: most perspective projects will receive up to $400K .

Commercial kitchen is an absolutely new field for Russia. It initially appeared in the USA in 2011 when the local and craft foods were extremely popular.

Because of the extremely high price of full-scale culinary equipment a beginning entrepreneur simply could not afford it. That's how the first food co-workings appeared with the main principle of sharing working hours between several participants in order to create a demo-version of their products.

Ivan Sidorok
Ivan Sidorok with the Director of the culinary startup center Mabius, Andrey Ryvkin (Mabius)

At the heart of Mabius' culinary innovation potential, the culinary startup center in Moscow is a research center, but also a laboratory where master classes are held to involve community. New products born via this laboratory, and in conjunction with the culinary startup center Mabius' partners, could take Russia's love of homemade and innovative food products to new markets in China and abroad. We continued our talk with the founder of this food industry incubator. 

Our Russia: What are the next innovations to be implemented in your production process outside the Mabius accelerator?

Ivan Sidorok Generally speaking, receiving data about customer behavior is a progressive way for any business. We are working on creating a system that will automatically gather behavioral schemes and scenarios of consumers, using such basic factors affecting the customer's decision process as a customer's path along the aisles in the market, background music and fragrance. We are going to design an IT-project called “Smart Shelf”, and we are looking for professionals who can help us with this. Our main target is to create a market shelf with different hi-tech components that will allow to understand a customer better, and to improve the client experience. Finally, we are launching a project on optimization and cost cutting for the “Smart Store” that will reduce spending on store equipment.

Our Russia: What are the target regions of your export products?

Ivan Sidorok: Mabius is mainly focused on the local market with the prospect of expansion in Asia. Within the next three years we are planning to create an international network of culinary start-up centers Mabius, and commercial kitchens in Latvia, the UK and China. While the Russian Center will be focused on the local market, the international centers will be developing new technology concepts using Russian raw materials to enter the Asian markets. The project investment will probably exceed $500K.

Andrey Ryvkine
Andrey Ryvkin conducts a master class at the culinary startup center (Mabius)

Our Russia: What new gastronomic masterpieces have been/are to be created by help of Mabius tool?

Ivan Sidorok: Our first product was the fruit snacks “Marc&Fisa” that successfully entered sales in April 2015. By the end of 2015 we are planning to launch 3 to 4 new products: coffee LES, created by the LES co-working cafe, pastry “Baker Maker”, a sauce line by the editor in chief “Afisha-Eda” and chef Alexey Zimin, and a number of the new sauces, spices and dressings by the famous chef and Mabius CEO Andrey Ryvkin.

Our Russia: Why, in your opinion, is the Russian market attractive for international entrepreneurs and foreigners in general?

Ivan Sidorok:  First of all, Russia is a country with great potential. There are still lots of vacant market niches and space for growth. Yet, the Russian customer is becoming a typical international customer that cares about the food on their plate, healthy lifestyle increasing their life standards. Yet the price is still one of the key factors for a Russian customer. We believe that food innovations can be successfully implemented in Russia as Russian people are open for new ideas and interesting projects.

Mr. Sidorok, whose family has been involved with the NMGK Group of companies since Soviet times, is an innovator of old school characteristics. Wasn't it in the book of Proverbs where it was written "there is nothing new under the sun?" Well Sidorok also seems to be practicing another ancient principal in his emulation of immensely successful companies like Coca Cola and Unilever. If Confucius admonished his pupils to emulate excellence in the Analects, then the Sidorok's Mabius venture into research and development (R&D) is perfect for the Russian food production industry. What's more, the company begun back in 1898 seems headed on a firm footing towards its second hundred years of business. 

Our Russia wishes to thank Mr. Sidorok and his colleagues who helped in this interview of their valuable time and insights.