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Lithuanian meat producer’s decision to ditch «Soviet» sausage brand stirs uproar in Russia

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULinas Jegelevičius for the BNN

How to express your disapproval with the Russian President if you are a sausage maker in Lithuania? Make sure you scrap the name of the sausage brand that still sends to many shivers down the spine- «Soviet». 

That is exactly what JSC Samsonas, a Lithuanian meat producer, did but the decision has stirred anti-Lithuanian uproar in Russia. Alfredas Rimidis, the company’s owner, admits the decision is partly his response to «the geopolitical climate» in the world.

Russian media vexed

«We have not come up with the decision all of a sudden. Two years ago, we carried out a market research which showed that the «Soviet» brand was associated with the company, Samsonas, and the quality of our products. We concluded that we could use Samsonas brand for all of our products. And now the current geopolitical circumstances prompt do it; besides we feel it’s our civic duty to drop the word «Soviet». We do not wish this to be made into a political issue, escalate things while people are suffering. We do not wish for it to become a PR thing,» the company head said.

But the news is out there with Russian media painfully «chewing» it.

The story quickly picked up and circulated by some major Russian media outlets pours is being politically tinged in the Russian news.

RIA Novosti, for example, ran the story under the vitriolic headline «Lithuania defeats «Soviet» sausages».

The Russian news agency considers there must definitely be a connection between the rebranding and the recent visit of the Ukrainian Culture minister in Lithuania.

«Patriotically-minded Lithuanians, elated by praise delivered by their Ukrainian buddies, decided on the occasion to surprise their high-ranking guests from Ukraine. They will teach the Ukrainians how to conclusively and irreversibly defeat the «soviet past». They need to blot out from the subconsciousness of their compatriots not just the images of former leaders, but also the flavours of Soviet products that have been on the shelves for many years and that are known for  their preservatives and emulsifiers-less make-up… The next thing that the Lithuanians are probably will go after is condensed milk with white-blue label called «Nostalgia», RIA Novosti sneered.

Addressing the «sausage topic», Novoje Izvestiya put out a story «Anti-Soviet Baltic republic.»

Another Russian online site, Argumenty i Fakty, also pointed out to «geopolitical reasons» behind the rebranding.

Rebranding is slated for December

The meat producer plans start relabeling the meat products in December.

«Virtually, nothing else will change, except the name of the brand. The packaging design will remain the same, except the word,» assured Rimidis.

According to data released by the market research company Nielsen last year, «Soviet» is the number-eight brand in Lithuania’s food market.

The popularity of the brand besides the good quality can be explained with a flare-up of emotions that the word «Soviet» stokes.

«The name, obviously, for some raises nostalgia, while to others evokes indignation. But eventually, with the current buyers, the bulk of which are respectable-age seniors, disappearing, the name of the brand will die out. For youth, the name does not already spark any memories of that era animation and does not signify preservatives-less meat products,» a market research expert told BNN.

Meat producer changed tunes

The contended sausage name had already triggered scandals in Lithuania in the past.

When on January 13, last year, with Lithuania commemorating the remembrance of the victims of the January 13, 1991 Soviet troops-led massacre at the Lithuanian TV Tower, a major supermarket chain offered a 100% discount for «Soviet» sausages if buying two or more pieces, a Lithuanian parliamentarian snapped off, calling the sell-off «a sabotage».

«That is not the Lithuania we had fought for …While awaiting the New Year (2013), three major private TV stations invited to watch an old good Soviet film, and then, during the Freedom Defenders’ Day, we were offered to buy the heavily discounted «Soviet» sausages…The sticker bearing words «Beloved Stalin is happiness of the nation» is still available at the Kremlin, as far as I know…Perhaps the Russians are still happy about that and being introduced to the world that way… But with the meat products, we alike are being introduced that way to the world, nation and our youth», Kestutis Masiulis, the MP, noted last year after January 13.

After the stir over the discounted sausages on the memorable day broke out he appealed in a letter to Samsonas management, asking it to scrap the name from the labels and choose another that «would not bring about historic, criminal and honor connotations…».

But Rimidis, the Samson’s head, was defiant then and refused last year to blot out the name, arguing that grievance from the Soviet times had nothing to do with the era’s sausage makers.

«The grievances were not inflicted by those who during the period were making sausages and other products. They were caused by the-then functionaries, perhaps the same ones that still now cling on power. Maybe some of the politicians need popularity: they definitely see that «Soviet» sausages are trendy, so perhaps they believe they can propel their popularity if they get hitched on it » Rimidis reasoned last year.

PR thing or sincere decision?

Speaking to BNN, the MP insisted he was «very happy» that «Soviet» brand meats will not be seen around in Lithuanian supermarkets.

«It was high time to do so (remove the label) long time ago. I urged the brand owner to scrap the name a while ago, but he wouldn’t listen to me then. I just cannot grasp why the Russians got so upset about it now with the decision in the news,» Masiulis told.

He confessed not to have tried out «a bit» of «Soviet» brand meats since the restoration of independence.

«Just seeing the tags on shelves is a real turn-off to me, I mean from the gastronomical point of view. I’ve had enough of the sausages during the Soviet years,» confided the parliamentarian.

But Samsonas management seems visibly fretted over the buzz and shied away from any comments.

«The news was not supposed to come out this time. The decision to discontinue using the name kicks in only in December. I’m not entitled to comment on what part of our production used to go to Russia before the sanctions,» Violeta Kasetiene, Samson Commercial Director, told BNN.

Rimidis, the Director, could not be reached for the story.

The look-up of the company on the Web turns up trickles of information on possible on-time-bill-settling issues the company seems deals with.

«If it is a case, the uproar singling out the company in the market could be a well thought-out PR campaign. Who could deny it? Many customers are likely to look for Samson production at supermarkets for now, at least for a couple weeks», the afore-quoted PR specialist reasoned.

Ref: 020/111.111.111.1840


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  1. Linda says:

    why should Russia care so much about a sausage label after all haven’t the Russian government banned imports from EU countries! Can’t have it both ways. I think it should be relabelled with the some ancient Lithuanian prince’s name.

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