BUSINESS

Feta cheese exports to the United States skyrocket

Greek feta cheese exports to the United States showed a massive 87.1 percent rise in the first half of the year,compared to the same period in 2011, a report by the General Consulate of Greece in New York said.

Exports to the US in the January-to-June period amounted to an estimated $5.04 million, up from $2.69 million in the first half of last year, although the Consulate notes that there can be no exact estimate of feta imports, as the same levy classification concerns four other soft cheeses such as manouri and halloumi.

However, according to data from the National Cheese Institute of the US, the sales of feta cheese in the country?s major supermarket chains alone posted a 6.4 percent annual rise in 2011 from 2010, amounting to 7.89 million kilograms that were worth $171.7 million. Most of the feta sold concerns the original, Greek-made product that accounts for 90 percent of sales in supermarkets, the same source revealed.

The Greek Consulate?s report suggests that the first company in the sale of feta cheese in the American market is Athenos, which is also involved in the production of Greek-style yogurt and is a Kraft Foods subsidiary based in Wisconsin.

It is followed by the Boar?s Head and Klondike Cheese of Monroe companies.

The Greek-American companies involved in the production and sale of feta are Krinos, Fantis Foods, Kontos Foods, Altamira Foods and Boboris Imports, among others.

Overall imports of feta-type cheeses in the US showed a 21 percent increase in the first half of the year, compared with 2011, approaching $30 million. In terms of quantity, the increase came to 19.7 percent, to 3.88 million kilograms.

The Consulate?s report also makes special reference to the prospects for increasing the Greek market share in the US, which can be achieved through a comprehensive strategy to promote Greek feta in the US with the participation of all competent entities aimed at informing the average American consumer about the significant quality differences between the authentic product and the imitations that can be found in the market.

The first essential step would be strengthening the Greek presence at major food fairs such as Fancy Foods (winter and summer version). Then, it would be useful to organize regular in-store promotional events to highlight the quality of Greek cheese products in targeted retail outlet chains.

On the other hand, the report stresses that unless the institutional recognition of the uniqueness of Greek feta becomes possible in the United States, the margin for Greece?s further penetration into a market that conservative estimates put far above $300 million on a yearly basis and growing, will be particularly limited.

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