The lack of french fries, as well as rustic potatoes in the Vkusno i Tochka restaurants that are trying to replace McDonald's, may be due to the fact that the new owners were unable to build logistics and agree with market participants to provide their enterprises with raw materials. Alexey Krasilnikov, Executive Director of the Union of Potato and Vegetable Market Participants (Potato Union), told The Insider. Earlier, the company told RBC that the last year in Russia was “bad”, but Krasilnikov is sure that this is not the only thing. Last year, the harvest was indeed smaller, but it was enough for processing.
The expert explained that even if agricultural producers run out of raw materials, processors store washed, peeled and frozen potatoes. At the same time, there are already early harvest products from the southern regions of Russia: Rostov, Astrakhan and Krasnodar, the expert notes. In addition, for the first time in the last 14 years, there are early potatoes and vegetables in Russia, which are exported by trucks from the occupied Kherson region. This year, if there is no drought or excessive moisture, the harvest will be even larger than last year, both in quality and quantity, he predicts.
“Unfortunately, the price of early production this season is rapidly decreasing, and the expectations that we had were not encouraging from the point of view of the economy. Early production will come from the northern regions, I mean the Tula region, in the central regions they will switch to harvesting early varieties, so it is illogical to say that we will not have potatoes or not.”
Before the war in Ukraine, a small part of frozen french fries was supplied from Poland and Belgium, but the supply has significantly decreased with the start of the French fries production plant of Belaya Dacha Trading CJSC and the Dutch Farm Frites. Problems with potatoes arose at the KFC network: they reported the cessation of supplies of “some unique potatoes,” Krasilnikov clarifies. However, in his opinion, the varieties in Europe and Russia are almost the same, and the European selection is mainly for industrial processing for fries and chips.
The expert acknowledged that 2021 was a lean year for certain parameters, but this, according to him, is absolutely uncritical. Potatoes failed not in terms of quantity, but in terms of quality, that is, size.
“The same french fries for McDonald's require a certain length of straw, but we remember the story of two years ago, when the same conditions developed in Europe - there was a crop failure, and European processors and manufacturers agreed and reduced the requirements for the size of potatoes for processing. This is not some kind of exclusive situation, it happened in European practice, and throw some kind of hysteria here ... The guys, maybe they didn’t finish it somewhere themselves, we need to talk with Belaya Dacha. Did these new [network] owners contact them or not, why couldn't they find a solution to this issue? It's interesting for us."
Mikhail Goncharov, the founder of the Teremok fast food chain, said that the niche that will appear in Russia after the departure of McDonald's will not be occupied by anyone. In his opinion, "there is simply no one in Russia that has a similar complexity and system of business now." After the opening of “Vkusno – and that’s it”, the average bill, as well as the prices for dishes on the menu, increased significantly: this also indicates that the new owners could not reproduce the original. Also, "Tasty - and that's it" could not repeat the business processes of an American company, therefore, it probably decided to justify itself with a "bad harvest" in Russia.
Sergey Lupekhin, Chairman of the Union of Potato and Vegetable Market Participants, warned about the risk of a shortage of Russian table potatoes in December 2021. As it became known to Kommersant, Lupekhin said at a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture that the deficit for consumers in 2022 may arise due to a reduction in production in private farms and an increase in processing capacity. At the same time, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, in 2021 the harvest was less than planned. The agency predicted a potato harvest of 7.15 million tons, but in the end they harvested 6.68 million tons.
In May, McDonald's restaurants were acquired by businessman Alexander Govor, whose company operated 25 chain locations in Siberia. This happened against the backdrop of McDonald's leaving Russia after the country's invasion of Ukraine: the company announced its withdrawal from the Russian market and the sale of the business after 32 years of operation. The new chain was called "Vkusno - and that's it", the first fifteen restaurants opened in Moscow and the Moscow region on June 12, the Day of Russia. Under the terms of the deal, the new owners cannot use the McDonald's brand and the name of the most popular dishes, such as Big Mac. In "Tasty - and that's it" they assured that they would try to save the McDonald's menu.