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Hello, my name is Christos Papadimitriou...
I am the head of Papadimitriou C. C. S.A.
and today I'll explain to you how a local traditional product
can leave from Kalamata and, under the right circumstances, reach the other side of the world.
Let's start our story from the beginning...
in 1939 my grandfather Christos left Patras, came to Kalamata and founded our company.
He set up his first currant-factory and started exporting black currants, the Corinthian currants.
At that time, export goods used to be shipped in bulk, in big wooden boxes,
leaving from the port of Kalamata and not from Piraeus, like nowadays. I don't know why
at that time Greece was England's main reliable supplier of currants, black and golden.
Until now, England is the main buyer of currants in the world.
Greece used to have currants of excellent quality, same as today, and very competitive prices!
However, nowadays our prices are not considered as competitive.
In the picture we can see my grandfather, my grandmother and the guard of the factory...
In the second picture that is actually the first picture taken of the factory, in 1955,
is the first picture we have got showing the production line.
And the third picture was taken later and shows our first factory.
Thirty years later, my father, Costas Papadimitriou
graduated from his studies in France at the school of oenology
and came back to Kalamata, where together with my grandfather
decided to modernize the factory
and look for more difficult and more demanding clients.
And here comes our innovation,
that little bag that you can see in the picture was for the time produced in Greece.
That packaging was being made only in England.
As we saw, currants were being shipped in bulk
and someone in England was placing them into this little bag.
He was the first to make this packaging in Greece.
Now lets see our downfall,
since 1960 until now
The blue color shows the crops of currants in Greece...
From big "players" that we used to be,
with an approximately 170.000 tons production in 1960,
we had almost disappeared. We almost reached 20.000 and year after year it was getting worse.
Turkey, the one in red color, from being an outsider in 1960, with 50.000 tons,
had become the dominant player of the world market,
with crops exceeding the 250.000 tons.
In reality, Turkey got everything we lost.
And it is increasing year after year...
What these numbers mean in real life:
from 20 enterprises in Kalamata that used to deal with currants export,
we were left with only one!
We'll see how we managed to prevent this number from becoming zero.
Why did this happen?
Currant is a commodity like wheat, rice and many more
They are goods produced in several places in the world, and their price depends on the size of the crops every year.
Those who will buy these products do not care about the place of production or who the producer is.
What the buyer is looking for is good quality, or average quality
and will seek the cheapest ones. They will buy from there
Consequently, as we saw Turkey, Iran and lately China
produce currants that are a lot cheaper than the Greek ones,
of acceptable quality by the buyer,
In comparison with the Greek ones that, although they are tastier, they got off the market.
This is what we did... Our next innovation:
in both pictures we basically see black currants.
However, in the second one the black currant in balsamic vinegar is processed.
We applied our technical knowledge to our product!
Balsamic vinegar is a value added product:
this is where my father applied the knowledge he gained during his studies in oenology;
He thought that currant was the ideal raw material for a product that in the mid of 1990s started becoming a trend around the world.
It was a black, sweet kind of vinegar, which was called balsamic vinegar.
But how did he realize that black currant was ideal for balsamic vinegar?
Those that you have tasted it, I imagine most of you, know that it is very sweet. It is high in natural sugar.
So if you turn it into vinegar, you don't have to add any artificial sweeteners.
And it has a natural black color.
Also, you can use its own color, and don't have to add any artificial ones or use any other techniques!
We differentiate our balsamic vinegar from the Italian ones.
It is the only kind of vinegar that is made 100% from Corinthian currants.
Since it is made only from currants, it gets all the rich antioxidants that currants have already.
So, it is the only vinegar rich in antioxidants.
It has no additives, no preservatives, no sweeteners, no caramel color added, nothing, only currants.
And because in 1998, when my father introduced to the market, there was no other Greek balsamic vinegar
it was the only balsamic vinegar produced in Greece.
In 2004 I joined the company! I finished my studies at the University of Piraeus,
came back and started dealing mainly with marketing.
In reality, we are trying to give some intangible attributes to the product that will give value to the product, but also increase the cost of production.
What am I trying to say?
One simple way is to improve the packaging.
In the first picture we can see our first packaging, while the other photo shows how our balsamic vinegar is today.
We want to make it more attractive to the consumer.
Between us, the company, the product and the consumer, a relationship of trust must be built.
One effective way to achieve this, if you have a good product,
is to participate in international competitions of major exhibitions of food and drinks such as SIAL in Paris.
It is the largest food and beverage exhibition, held every two years and there we were awarded twice in the last eight years for our products.
Of course, there are respective competitions from prestigious gastronomy magazines in Greece,
such as "Gastronomos" of "Kathimerini" newspaper and "Gourmet" of "Eleftherotypia",
which have both given us an award for the quality of our products.
If you want to sell your product, you need to advertise it.
It is something essential. You don't need, however, exaggerations...
In our case, we didn't need to have advertising on TV, it would be a waste of money.
You need to choose the media that addresses the type of consumers you are looking for.
There are alternative ways of advertising that are not expensive and aim at exactly where they should.
For example: in the first picture, we see Athens metro.
It was an advertising campaign according to which you are given the whole train to use the colors of the company,
place posters and convey meanings you want to the consumer.
It's an effective and intense means because you are on your own, there are other competitors in the train
and you convey exactly the meanings you want.
And it doesn't cost much, although it seems expensive.
The second case is advertising in gastronomy magazines;
You directly address the the target group that you want to aim at...
And of course the internet! Which year after year expands,
we all know how strong a means is,
but it is still the cheapest of the traditional means of advertising such as television.
You may say to me "We thought you came to talk about exports, so why are you telling us what you do in Greece?"...
Now imagine that we are in a meeting with a potential buyer and head of a Finnish or Australian supermarket
and trying to convince them to choose our own balsamic vinegar over the Italian one or someone else.
The first thing they will ask is "Have you sold it anywhere else?"
"Have you got a successful business story to present to me that will make me choose your product to place on my shelf?"...
This is why you need sales in Greece!
If you say that there is a target group that prefers my product because it has these specific characteristics,
the buyer will want to try it regardless the fact that they have no idea whether the product will succeed or not.
Also, sales in Greece is like a school for exports.
We are in a global market
where the operating rules of supermarkets are more or less the same everywhere.
So, starting from Greece, you learn the rules of the game and what you need to do...
Also, at this time we are all lucky because there is this movement in favor of Greek products,
so consumers will appreciate our efforts, whether small or big.
And some small mistakes can be forgiven in the beginning. But I'm referring only to conscientious efforts.
In our case, there was also another aspect, we were lucky enough to be present at the birth of balsamic vinegar in Greece.
When my father started producing it, there was no other balsamic vinegar,
so we from that point we maintained good quality and through continuous promotional efforts
we managed to become the No1 balsamic vinegar in Greece.
Now lets move on to exports ...
The first thing to do is give the buyer the impression that you know your product,
create trust and be serious about it.
To achieve this you must show that you are a product specialist and you don't have an opinion about everything under the sun!
You need a wide range of variety, and that indicates that you take it seriously.
Here we can see balsamic vinegar in spray form, white balsamic, with honey, from fig, a series of balsamic vinegar with fruity flavors (which lately has become a trend) ...
We used to have a sign outside our shop... Now we don't have a sign, we have the corporate website.
While I'm talking to you, a buyer from Canada or Japan may want to buy some balsamic vinegar for his shop
and have found our website by searching on Google.
However, I'm not there right now to convince them to choose our balsamic vinegar.
My website can do that!
So, it should have all the information that the consumer needs at that time in order to be convinced.
It is, consequently, a daily and basic tool for exports!
We are a food S.M.E., not an multinational one!
That means that we have limited powers.
These limited powers, in order to be effective, need to be concentrated.
We cant go to all the countries and believe that tomorrow we can conquer the world.
For us, choosing countries for exports will be based on the living standards of each country, which need to be quite high, and have similar eating habits to Europe.
It shouldn't be the first time for them to hear the words "balsamic vinegar".
A good tip is to start by surfing the Net. Most supermarkets sell their products on-line.
Just by visiting the website of super market, can you see if they have balsamic vinegar in a shop, in a country?
If yes, who are the competitors? What about the prices?
Is there a difference in the packaging compared to yours? Is there something else that they prefer?
So, you see if it's worth the effort and you go prepared, knowing what to say, aware of the gaps in the market and what you recommend.
Today we export to 28 countries so far
but 70% of the sales take place in the following five: England, Australia, Sweden, Finland and Czech Republic.
No matter how much effort we put to sell our product in Greece,
you need the double, triple or even more to convince a foreigner to buy your product.
Just think about our attitude against imported products, and how prejudiced we are towards them.
The steps that our company takes to enter a specific market,
although it doesn't mean they are the right ones but it works for us,
are that we take part in the local food and drink exhibition so at to realize how the market works and meet our buyers and consumers.
If we manage to enter a chain or some shops, we'll have some taste tests!
You should give the consumer the chance to taste your product for free! If they like it, then they'll buy it.
And of course, advertising.
On local gastronomy magazines or cooking websites on the Internet.
If you don't something different when you are a SME,
"the big guys", the multinational companies will get you out of the way. There is no hope.
However, there are certain categories of products like balsamic vinegar, where the multinational enterprises do not prevail.
The biggest "player" in balsamic vinegar market is again a family business in Italy.
There, there is enough space for someone to enter the market.
But lets not stick only to supermarkets and shops like this, there are more sale channels,
which by using special packaging can give you some room for further growth.
Such are the airlines, hotels, cruise ships, for which we made the miniatures, the individual packs, so as to approach this area.
You may ask me why I should go through all this whole process. It sounds difficult but is it worthwhile?
The global balsamic vinegar market is huge, and grows rapidly year after year.
In contrast, the market of currants seems to be shrinking.
Also, we decide on the price of balsamic vinegar.
It is not determined by the global market, as it is done with currants or olive oil,
so for example what price the Italians may ask for, if hey come, etc...
and something else! The more difficult, more specialized is your product;
the fewer enterprises will try to replicate it since it is hard!
So the fewer competitors you have, obviously the better.
Also, with an added value product you can seek exports.
This is how we still survive.
Although the number of sales in Greece, same for everyone, decrease year after year because of the recession,
we can compensate for this loss thanks to exports and generally, we are still on a good track.
Lets move on to something a little bit more emotional...
If you enter a supermarket abroad e.g. in New Zealand,
and see a consumer looking at vinegar products and decides to choose your product among others,
without having an idea about who you are or which your company is,
is something that definitely fills you with joy and even national pride when you see that.
And, finally, because it is such a nice journey.
Thank you very much.