Recently, Depot WPF agency, which developed the brand Valaam, visited Bishop Troitsky, vicar of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, governor of the Transfiguration Valaam Monastery Pankraty.
- Archbishop, own subsidiary farming is, probably, at all Russian monasteries and farmsteads. But why decided on Valaam to go with their branded products to the broad market?
- First of all, this is due to the fact that the Valaam Monastery receives up to 120 thousand visitors annually. They are trying to take away some souvenir, something connected to Valaam. We had already had a little experience: at one time we produced herbal tea, for example. I saw this from our Finnish colleagues - back to 1940 in eastern Finland our monks founded Novo-Valaam Spaso-Preobrazhensky monastery. He has his own brand and his own monastic sign. There is also a small production - monks provide practically the whole of Finland with church wine. They get wine materials, in my opinion, from Hungary or from other countries where there are vineyards. Now they are already doing whiskey ...
And when I saw this, I thought: why do not we try? First, tea was released in souvenir packages, then a balm, which we ourselves developed on the basis of growing our healing herbs. The balm turned out not bad! It is called "Aptekarsky Garden". At us, at least, since XIX century there is a real pharmaceutical garden.
Well, after, when the first production of good and serious quality appeared at our dairy farm, we offered dairy products to those who wanted it. And this coincided with the sanctions and the call to replace imported goods. It turned out well, because we were taught by the Italians. Monastery cheese is very tasty, it is called "Monastiko". Italian specialists still support us. We have been preparing this program for several years at the expense of philanthropists. The farm was completely rebuilt – new Italian equipment was installed.
We have everything suitable for the production of dairy products. Here is a very successful combination of factors - water and land. What is called in winery terroir. Pray, good attitude and, as how it is now common to say – good energy. And the result is nice!
And then the idea arose that the surplus of these products we need to transport to St. Petersburg. By the way, in due time, at the beginning of the 20th century, our monastery provided almost 10% of all the products to St. Petersburg. It is clear that these were not farms situated on Valaam, but on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. But, nevertheless, the production of these farms belonged to the monastery and brought a good income. That's how the desire to renew it was born. At first, to use the brand, to attract other manufacturers of quality products and to serve under the brand name of Valaam Monastery, more precisely, Valaam. Valaam is bigger than a monastery. Many people believed in this idea and wanted to participate. And gradually we came to the fact that you can develop a high level brand and go into trade.
- What cities and trade networks do you plan to cover?
- We are open for cooperation. Which retail store chains will accept, there we will place our products. Now this is the Volga region, because one of the producers is located in this region, and the North-West, because they know well what Valaam island is. Well, of course, we have views to Moscow. Everything in time – step by step.
- And when can we expect the product on the shelves?
- By the end of this summer. In September, for sure.
- Do you like the design of the package?
- The fact is that I have an architectural education, so sphere of design, architecture, fine arts are close to me. In addition, I am engaged in photography. I am interested in embodying the image of Valaam. Of course, we participated in the development from the very beginning. The options presented were very good, about ten, for sure. And we chose two or three. And approved the one that is now going into production. By the way, that's why we chose a laconic design so that it differs from the variegation that is now on the shelves, and it fastens your eyes…
- Have you ever heard that this modern laconic design does not relate very much to the church, to the monastery?
- We did not want to associate the design with church symbols, because it immediately narrows the range of possible consumers. "Orthodox" products, like halal or kosher, are still oriented towards the circle of believers. And we do not specifically indicate that it is a monastery on the packaging, that it is an Orthodox production, and there are no stylizations for the Old Russian style - ligature, domes ... Firstly, everyone got already tired with these, became familiar with such a concept. Secondly, as I said, it narrows the audience. Let Valaam buy everyone, including those who do not adhere to any religious beliefs. We are counting on the widest possible audience.
- Depot WPF agency presents the project in the media and social networks, at festivals of advertising and design, and there are comments, they say, the holy encroachment, Valaam and commerce ...
- If it were a question of a monastery, about a church, there could be grounds for reproaches. But when it's Valaam, or whatever it's called, a marvelous island, then why not? Valaam is not associated with something negative ... When they say: Solovki, for example, then immediately in memory there are victims, repressions, Solovetsky camp, heavy associations arise in general in memory immediately. And Valaam is not associated with something heavy and tragic. These are, rather, bright associations. Especially those who were on Valaam, perceive everything normally ... Personally, I have not seen any such objection among people with whom I had a talk about it.
Questions of a different kind arose: does not it look like some kind of crookedness, some kind of untruth, that Valaam is written, and this is not done on Valaam? But this is often the case in the modern world. Like if we take Baikal beverages. Can someone offend that it was not produced at Lake Baikal? Valaam is a natural, geographical concept.
- What products will consumers receive in the first place and what are the plans to expand the line?
- First of all, we are focused on dairy products: milk, sour cream, cheese, butter. Then confectionery. There are plans to produce flour. There are no restrictions, but we, of course, now want to start with milk. Because if lecho or stew appear by Valaam brand, it will even somehow shock. On TV, there have already been many stories about the Valaam farm, about how a monk with a pipe grazes cows on a field. Milk will be the best decision for now.
- And the release of confectionery and flour – are these far-reaching plans?
- As it happens, the Lord will bless. There are situations that can change the course of events in the project in one direction or another.
- Coming back to your story about the Finnish monastery, and is there a farm in Russia that also produces and sells such products?
- I have not met. There are, of course, in the famous monasteries and pilgrimage centers some products related to this place. But, firstly, this is a rather limited assortment: sweets, confectionery, gingerbread. It is rather some random actions. The exception is the Nativity-Theotokos Sanaksar Monastery in Mordovia. There monks make soy lean mayonnaise and sell in the region. They have a good bakery, bake breadcrumbs and bakery products and also sell outside the monastery. Still there is a monastery in the Kaluga diocese, Tikhonov's deserts. There is also a wonderful bakery product. I ate it myself, it was very tasty! But this, again, local attempts. And we want to try to enter trade networks.
- Archbishop, can you say something about the volume of production?
- For now I will refrain. The list of our partners, is "in the process".
- And what does the brand Valaam mean for you personally?
- Strangely enough, for me it is the most important responsibility. It is important for me that the name conform to quality, so that people are not disappointed. Therefore, the choice of partners and suppliers is very important. Not so much the possible income that will go to the monastery, how much responsibility. We, of course, are interested in Valaam to be associated with something bright, wonderful, pleasant and, in particular, tasty. I would like to see that we have a fully environmentally friendly product. Everything is born in the process. Designers, marketing experts and manufacturers with great interest participate in this work. I hope that this common interest in the process and results will work and bring good results.