Twenty Years Later: What McDonald’s In Russia Says About The Brand’s Future


The lettuce magnate of Russia is named Mr. Semenov. He began as a modest lettuce grower outside of Moscow in 1990. Today he sells 150 different types of lettuce, is a wealthy man, and has subsequently transitioned into politics, serving in the Russian Parliament with the powerful United Russia party. Who does he have to thank for his success?

Ronald McDonald. And the McDonald’s brand.[more]

This is the story of a brand that will to do McWhatever-It-Takes. When McDonald’s first moved into Russia, it had to start from scratch. There was no infrastructure. Nothing. For a company that typically purchases ingredients – lettuce, pickles, etc. – from local, privately-owned farms, McDonald’s found itself in a foreign country run by a complex government that didn’t encourage private businesses. So McDonald’s built its own facility: the McComplex, right outside of Moscow. Since then, McDonald’s has inspired enough private ventures to provide almost every ingredient the company needs to accommodate its menu.

Today, 80 percent of McDonald’s ingredients are supplied by private businesses in Russia, which is a complete turnaround from the situation in 1990. In addition to Mr. Semenov, the brand’s presence in Russia has also resulted in the ascent of Mr. Revyakin, otherwise known as the Pickle King of Russian processed food. Mr. Revyakin told the New York Times, “We make $2 million a year selling cucumbers.”

Many people, of course, have a complicated relationship with McDonald’s, as is evident in the brand’s vast popularity relative to the success of Morgan Spurlock’s disconcerting movie, “Supersize Me,” for example. However, as McDonald’s has proven over the decades, and in places such as Russia, it is not tone deaf, but in fact very ambitious, resilient, and willing to adapt to the changing priorities of the collective consciousness.

But now a question arises as the “foodie” movement – comprised of people who are aficionados of the food industry and advocates of non-processed ingredients – grows: Will McDonald’s be just as successful in adjusting to the latest development in the evolving landscape of consumer demand?