LIFE

Co-op supermarket gains fans with 'Greekness'

By Costas Onishenko

Greek consumers? growing preference for local products is the reason for the success of the EpiloGi supermarket chain, which operates under the umbrella of the Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives (PASEGES) at a number of locations around the Attica region.

The first EpiloGi store opened just a year ago and last week, the company behind the chain, Elliniki Diatrofi (Greek Diet), inaugurated its fifth outlet.

The ongoing economic crisis has played a catalytic role in stirring patriotic sentiment among Greek consumers, many of whom will take the time to read the small prints on the labels of packages in order to ascertain whether products advertised as being Greek are in fact so, and whether the materials used in manufactured products are of Greek origin. Their interest extends as far as questioning whether the companies are based in Greece and employ Greek labor.

This trend is backed up by the record of sales at EpiloGi stores, where products from cooperatives promoted by PASEGES tend to do much better than similar items produced by better-known Greek and international brands, which, in an effort to provide customers with a greater amount of choice, can also be found on the supermarket shelves.

?Most customers will choose a product made by a co-op over one made by a foreign or multinational corporation,? explained Vera Marketou, the manager for EpiloGi?s entire chain of stores.

While the stores draw customers looking for Greek products from far and wide, most of the business that comes to these small supermarkets is from the people in the neighborhood.

?Our shelves feature all the products you normally find at a supermarket. Our customers come here to do their regular shopping and with time they become more discerning about selecting co-op products,? Marketou said.

The November sales figures from all of EpiloGi?s stores showed that among the 20 most popular products, 15 were produced by co-ops. The most popular of these were rice (95 percent of total rice sales) and pulses (80 percent), while it is also indicative that 68 percent of customers chose a cumbersome 3-kilo bag of co-op flour over regular 1-kilo bags from other companies.

The popularity of co-op products also has much to do with the fact that their prices tend to be 10-40 percent lower that their better-known counterparts because they are not burdened by the cost of intermediaries and wholesalers, or by having to pay a large fee to be displayed on the supermarket shelves.

Androniki Beou, who lives close to the EpiloGi store on Geroulanou Street in Argyroupoli, southern Athens, told Kathimerini that she does around half her shopping there. ?I have started buying certain foodstuffs by Greek producers; they are good and the prices are very good,? she added.

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EpiloGi supermarkets are located at 17 Geroulanou Street in Argyroupoli; 16 Asclepiou in Kamatero, Argous Averoff

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