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Poultry maker to expand production
First Fresh Foods to market Russian-style chicken in US, adding 20 jobs
Vladimir Gorbechev, center, deputy director of Elinar Holding, toasts the debut of new Russian-style chicken products that are being produced in Gainesville during a taste-testing Friday at 2 Dog restaurant in Gainesville for Russian and local officials on hand for the new products’ premiere. - photo by David B. Strickland

Gainesville’s title as “Poultry Capital of the World” now will include a locally produced taste of Russia.

Stemming from an idea several years in the making, an American company will produce and market Russian-style chicken products for sale in the United States.

First Fresh Foods, operating within Prime Pak Foods at 2076 Memorial Park Drive, is beginning production of the processed chicken products initially for marketing and sales in the northeastern United States. The company hopes to expand the product for sale soon throughout the eastern U.S.

“We are working to get product out for sampling and marketing as soon as possible,” Alan Habegger, CEO of First Fresh Foods, said Friday. “We are expecting the first sales to be sometime in October.”

He added the company, with a production line of more than 20 employees, hopes for the product to be available in the Southeast within six months to a year.

The company is beginning with six products, ranging from sausage to cutlets.

The idea for these new product offerings began as an extension of what is being produced in Russia by the joint U.S.-Russian broiler company venture Elinar.

“We would attend the Elinar board meetings (in Russia) and we would often have a cookout and they would feature the Elinar products,” said James Sumner, president of the Stone Mountain-based USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. “I would say, ‘it’s too bad that there is no product quite like this back in the United States,’ and this thought was in our minds for several years.”

Sumner said importing the product from Russia would be too difficult.

“We thought, ‘What about manufacturing it in the U.S. using U.S. product with the Russian formula?’ And the idea took off from there,” he said.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the First Fresh facility, Vladimir Gorbechev, deputy director of Elinar Holding, said, “This is an important occurrence for the industry. We are going to be producing this product here using the same principles we use in Russia, and we hope it is as great a success as it has been in the Russian market.”

Initially the product will be marketed toward areas of the country with large Russian and Eastern European populations. The hope is to expand beyond the niche markets and into all markets, company officials noted.

“We hope that the product will be enjoyed not just by Russian citizens living in America, but that it will be enjoyed by all Americans,” Sumner said.

A tasting was held Friday at 2 Dog restaurant in Gainesville for a tour of company officials, board of director members and officials on hand.

“The hope for this brand is to provide a product that is ready-to-cook, easy-to-cook with little time to prepare, but that is also fresh, not frozen, juicy and with a unique taste,” said Albert Davleyev, president of AGRIFOOD Strategies, ZAO, and oversees the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council’s Russian office.

“Further processed products comprise more than half of the poultry purchased in the U.S., and this will certainly provide another interesting and exciting option for the consumer,” said Mike Giles, president of the Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation. “It’s also wonderful that this great new product is going to be produced here in Gainesville.”

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