SBJ/Nov. 25-Dec. 1, 2013/Olympics

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  • Sponsors find high hurdles on getting food products to Russia

    Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

    High shipping costs and Russian food regulations have made it challenging for U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors to get their companies’ food products into the country for the Sochi Games.

    Sponsor Chobani won’t have any products at the USOC hospitality center; Smucker’s is still exploring what products it will try to get in to Russia.
    The issues mean that yogurt brand Chobani, which became a USOC sponsor in 2012, won’t have any of its products available for athletes or guests at the USOC’s hospitality center. Kellogg’s will ship products it distributes in Europe, which aren’t genetically modified, and
    Smucker’s still is exploring what products it will work to get into the country.

    Packaged goods companies that are USOC sponsors typically ship their products to the Olympics so that athletes and members of the USOC delegation can use them. By doing so, they hope to raise awareness of the products, showcase their support of Team USA and get media attention if athletes mention their brands during interviews.

    Each Olympic Games presents its own set of shipping challenges. For the Beijing Games, brands had to list all the ingredients in food products on the exterior of shipping boxes in order for the boxes to be admitted into China. For the London Games, brands couldn’t send any products with genetically modified foods, which are banned by the European Union.

    The Sochi Games have presented similar challenges. Russia, like the European Union, has a ban against genetically modified foods, and the country has special regulations about foods with live cultures in them, like Chobani’s yogurt.

    “In a normal situation, it’s hard to get food to these places,” said Sandy Uridge, Kellogg Co. senior director of integrated consumer promotions. “It’s complicated for an Olympics.”

    The USOC begins evaluating the shipping rules of Olympic host countries five years before a Games. It works with cargo-shipping company Rock-It Cargo, which handles the international shipping for hundreds of bands touring worldwide, to understand what can and cannot be shipped.

    Companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, which already have extensive and well-established operations in Russia, aren’t affected by the country’s shipping rules, but Kellogg’s, Chobani and Smucker’s all have had to work with the USOC to determine what they can send to Sochi.

    Uridge said Kellogg’s doesn’t have a cereal business in Russia, so the company will be shipping breakfast-related products from Europe.

    Chobani made arrangements to get its product into Russia but decided against sending its yogurt there because of high shipping costs. The company is exploring the possibility of having a yogurt station at the USOC’s processing center in Munich as an alternative. Team USA athletes will pass through the processing center to get supplies and equipment before going to Sochi, and the yogurt would be offered alongside meals that are being served there.

    Chobani confirmed it will not be shipping product to Russia but declined to comment on questions about its shipping plans.

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