CULTURE

Food industry turns to Greek raw materials

Greek products and raw materials are gaining new fans not just among consumers in this country, but also in the food industry, whether completely local or multinational firms.

Other than using homegrown raw materials to produce beer, cheese and other food and drink, the industry is also beginning to bring back local products which had fallen out of favor, as many consumers had come to think that foreign imports were of better quality — butter being a case in point.

Athenian Brewery pioneered the use of Greek barley in beer production in 2008 and it has been using barley from northern and central Greece in the production of its Amstel and Alpha labels ever since. In the 2008-10 period, the brewery purchased some 40,000 tons of barley for 8 million euros, while in 2011 it bought an additional 18,000 tons, with the company?s goal being to reach 70,000 tons by 2014. It also launched experimental barley cultivation in 2011 in Lamia, Serres, Larissa and Livadia, hoping to find a new variety with better characteristics and of higher quality.

Olympic Brewery, which produces Fix beer, is now also cultivating 200,000 square meters of barley in Thiva, where it grows two different varieties and hopes to reach a target of 100 tons by the summer of 2012, with the broader aim of covering all its barley needs for the domestic market.

One of the world?s leading dairy producers, FrieslandCampina, which is based in the Netherlands but last year inaugurated a brand-new plant in the port of Patra, is now using Greek milk exclusively for its products sold in this country and accounts for 15 percent of all domestic milk production. The dairy factory is supplied by Thessaly livestock farmers who are members of the recently founded Thesgala cooperative, as well as 40 independent producers.

Minerva, a company best known for its olive oil, took on the oligopoly of imports in the butter category, launching Horio, an old-style Greek organic butter made using goat milk in a successful campaign that has seen sales soar.

Acquired by the Italian Barilla Group in 1991 but still based in Greece, Misko, which makes pasta and other related products using local durum wheat, has gone a step further and launched a new Paradosiaka (Traditional) line, which resembles handmade pasta, from various parts of the country.

At the same time, products from smaller Greek companies, including delicatessen manufacturers, are also gaining popularity despite the fact that they tend to be more expensive, such as Mylelia handmade pasta or the olive oil, dips and sauces of Gaea, which have conquered not just the Greek market but foreign ones as well.

A similar trend has also emerged in the catering sector, with restaurants and hotels increasingly designing menus based on the Mediterranean diet and traditional Greek products. For hotels especially, campaigns by the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels (HCH) and by individual hoteliers have shone the spotlight on Greek products, with the most recent example being a deal signed between the HCH and the Greek Wine Federation, as well as the ?Greek Breakfast? campaign launched a few months ago.