While it's true that Polish customers tend to value the quality of Finnish products, a successful entry into Poland is certainly not an effortless endeavor. There are certain differences in business practices and market conditions that are easy to overlook.
It's helpful to draw lessons from the experiences of Nordic enterprises that have already successfully ventured into the Polish market. One such example is Oddlygood.
Founded in 2018 in Finland, Oddlygood offers plant-based products renowned for their exceptional taste. The company expanded to Poland in 2021 and has been growing here ever since. Lev Rubinstein, Head of European Sales at Oddlygood, talked with Julia Morta from Spondeo about the company’s journey on the Polish market, Finnish and Polish business cultures, and main trends in the food industry.
Why did Oddlygood choose Poland as a direction for expansion?
Our parent company, Valio, was already successfully operating on the Polish market with PROfeel protein products. I was responsible for this project from Valio’s side, so it was a natural step to also bring Oddlygood to Poland. We pay close attention to the desires of local consumers and we have observed a growing interest in plant-based products, especially among young Polish consumers. This has made Poland an appealing market for us to enter. It is also true that Finnish quality is appreciated in Poland, both by consumers and professional society.
What challenges did you encounter when entering the Polish market?
The Polish market is known to have some of the lowest retail prices in Europe, which was one of the major difficulties given that Oddlygood products are in the everyday premium category. However, prices have been increasing in recent years and are now nearly at the same level as in Western Europe. A second challenge is that the plant-based sector in Poland is also fiercely competitive, with well-established local companies like Inka and Sante. Despite that, we are confident that Oddlygood, with its great taste, will be a success on the Polish market.
You have seven years of experience in doing business in Poland. What surprised you the most when you first came here?
During my first negotiations on the Polish market, I was surprised by how straight-forward the managers and buyers are. However, I appreciate this direct approach because it challenges me and makes the sense of achievement after successful negotiations even more satisfying.
What are the main differences between Polish and Finnish markets?
One significant difference is that Finland only has three modern retailers, while Poland has over fifty, including both modern and traditional ones. The practices also differ. In Finland there are specific trade windows for product reviews and adjustments to the product list, whereas on the Polish market things are more flexible. The strategic approach in Poland can vary depending on what retail you are targeting. For example, discounters like Biedronka, Dino, and Lidl play a major role in the retail landscape, and significantly impact product performance and distribution.
What are currently the main trends in the food industry?
Major trends in both countries include sustainability, reducing sugar content, and increasing nutritional value. Plant-based products have also been gaining popularity among flexitarians, who incorporate them into their diets because of the health benefits and superior taste.
What advice would you give to a Finnish company considering expansion to Poland?
It may be surprising for newcomers to discover that starting a business in Poland is a very personal thing. Everything depends on relationships, and it is crucial to establish them right from the start. Your success depends on both product quality and the person leading the expansion. Therefore, I recommend choosing the project leader carefully. Of course, it is also important to ensure that the product fits well with market conditions and to have someone on the ground in Poland.
What are Oddlygood’s further plans for Poland?
We are continuously working to expand our presence on the Polish market, including retail, food service, cafes, and gas stations. We consider Poland a strategic market and have plans to introduce more 'Oddlygood' products in the near future. Stay tuned!
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