Monogram Cultivates Success Through Teamwork in Greece

The four young co-founders of Monogram used their professional backgrounds to found an award-winning olive oil brand in Kalamata.

Aug. 23, 2022
By Costas Vasilopoulos

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At the foot of Mount Taygetos on the south­west­ern tip of the Peloponnese penin­sula is Kalamata.

The city is well-known in Greece for its beau­ti­ful beaches only a stone’s throw away from down­town and easy escapes to the nearby moun­tains for locals and vis­i­tors alike.

Participating and receiv­ing awards in the largest and most renowned olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion in the world is a huge chal­lenge for us each year.- Anastasis Magganas, co-owner, Monogram Olive Oil

Kalamata and the broader Messenia region also boast a long tra­di­tion of pro­duc­ing olive oil and table olives.

Apart from the renowned Protected Designation of Origin-cer­ti­fied Kalamata olives pro­duced in the area, Messenia is a sig­nif­i­cant olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, yield­ing more than 50,000 tons in boun­ti­ful sea­sons.

See Also:Producer Profiles

As a result, Messenia is home to dozens of busi­nesses involved in pro­duc­ing, bot­tling and export­ing olive oil.

Among them, Monogram Olive Oil is the brain­child of the Magganas fam­ily, which boasts a rich past in olive cul­ti­va­tion and oil pro­duc­tion dat­ing back three gen­er­a­tions.

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My grand­fa­ther started plant­ing olive trees in 1918,” co-owner Anastasis Magganas told Olive Oil Times. Then, my father took over, the first in the fam­ily to pro­duce top-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.”

I remem­ber as a boy going with him to the fields learn­ing the secrets of cul­ti­vat­ing and prun­ing the olive trees,” he added. The cre­ation of a range of olive-based prod­ucts came as a nat­ural flow in my life’s twists and turns, also ful­fill­ing my desire to return and stay at my birth­place, Kalamata.”

Magganas also recalled when the fam­ily con­tem­plated ven­tur­ing into the world of pro­fes­sional olive oil pro­duc­tion.

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View of Kalamata from the surrounding hills (Photo: Olive Oil Times)

I remem­ber I was in the fields dur­ing the day with the work­ers, and when the sun was set­ting, we were gath­er­ing with [my wife] Vassiliki and [my sis­ter] Joanna by the fire­place, dis­cussing and dream­ing while look­ing at old pho­tos,” Magganas said.

Eventually, our dream came true in 2018, and now Monogram is a glob­ally rec­og­nized olive oil com­pany with dis­tinc­tions in inter­na­tional olive oil qual­ity and design com­pe­ti­tions,” he added.

The Magganas fam­ily, who form the Monogram team, is a well-matched yet het­ero­ge­neous group of peo­ple whose dif­fer­ent edu­ca­tional and sci­en­tific back­grounds per­fectly serve the com­pa­ny’s needs and day-to-day oper­a­tions.

We focus a lot on edu­cat­ing the con­sumers, chal­leng­ing them to taste our olive oils.- Anastasis Magganas, co-owner, Monogram Olive Oil

Magganas is a math­e­mati­cian who brings his finance and olive oil pro­duc­tion exper­tise. Meanwhile, Joanna, a der­ma­tol­o­gist cur­rently liv­ing and work­ing in Zurich, has a deep under­stand­ing of the antiox­i­dant and anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties of olive oil.

Food chemist Vassiliki Skiada con­tributes her pro­fes­sional com­pe­tence after work­ing as a super­vi­sor in olive oil qual­ity lab­o­ra­to­ries for more than a decade. Last but not least, Manos Vournelis, a process engi­neer, is the prod­uct man­ager at Monogram.

The part­ners I have cho­sen to join the Monogram team are our most impor­tant resource,” Magganas said. I firmly believe in team spirit, the exper­tise that each of us pos­sesses, and our ded­i­ca­tion and will­ing­ness to suc­ceed.”

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The Monogram Team: Vassiliki Skiada (left), Manos Vournelis, Anastasis Magganas, Joanna Magganas

I would also like to acknowl­edge the con­tri­bu­tion of our exter­nal part­ner, agron­o­mist and olive oil expert Konstantinos Liris, and his capac­ity as a qual­ity con­sul­tant,” he added.

The name Monogram, mean­ing two or more inter­wo­ven let­ters, came about by chance when the com­pa­ny’s founders were search­ing for a suit­able name for their new­born busi­ness.

My love for poetry led me to the word, Monogram,” Magganas said. One evening, I was read­ing the poem Monogram, writ­ten by one of the great­est Greek poets, the Nobel Prize win­ner Odysseas Elytis.”

Monogram is a Greek word pro­nounced the same way in all lan­guages, and the poem reminded me of my love and pas­sion for olive oil,” he added. We decided on it almost imme­di­ately, and it has been our qual­ity sig­na­ture ever since.”

Even though the com­pa­ny’s incep­tion coin­cided with the start of the Covid-19 pan­demic, the team behind Monogram turned the chal­lenge into an oppor­tu­nity, tak­ing advan­tage of the mar­kets’ clo­sures to lay the foun­da­tions for a suc­cess­ful entry into the olive oil busi­ness.

During the two dif­fi­cult years of the pan­demic, we worked inter­nally, improv­ing our prod­ucts, set­ting up col­lab­o­ra­tions and look­ing for the proper dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels,” Magganas said. This year, with the mar­kets open all over the world, we are enjoy­ing a rapid growth in sales.”

Monogram is pri­mar­ily an export-ori­ented com­pany, with its prod­ucts shipped to cen­tral European and East Asian coun­tries, includ­ing Japan and South Korea. The com­pany is also con­stantly look­ing to expand its cus­tomer base, mak­ing its first steps in the American mar­ket this year.

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Anastasis Magganas in the olive groves

The olives are har­vested early in the sea­son and are trans­formed into olive oil on the same day.

We avoid late har­vest,” Magganas said. The ripen­ing level of the olives is cru­cial for the oil con­tent and its organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics. Optimum har­vest time offers extra vir­gins with max­i­mum aro­mas and fla­vor com­plex­ity.”

We trans­port the olives to the mill imme­di­ately after har­vest, press and knead them in less than 30 min­utes,” he added. We also fil­ter our olive oil to avoid the pres­ence of any water or other residues that could lead to the hydrol­y­sis of the phe­nols.”

Our early har­vest­ing con­tributes to a higher con­cen­tra­tion of polyphe­nols, which are widely praised for their dis­ease-fight­ing prop­er­ties,” Magganas con­tin­ued. Monogram’s high-polyphe­nol extra vir­gin olive oil belongs to the cat­e­gory of healthy extra vir­gin olive oils that pro­tect blood lipids from oxida­tive stress accord­ing to the Commission Regulation 432/2012.”

Monogram’s first line of olive oils includes three types: Monogram Mild Flavor, Intense Flavor and Organic. Each one is made from Koroneiki olives har­vested from the com­pa­ny’s groves near the vil­lage of Kremmydia in cen­tral Messenia.

These three prod­ucts are dif­fer­en­ti­ated and dis­tin­guished in terms of their organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics: the intense and robust pro­file of early har­vest ver­sus a mild and del­i­cate pro­file of reg­u­lar har­vest, empha­siz­ing mainly the aro­mas and fla­vor of the Koroneiki vari­ety,” Magganas said.

Monogram’s Organic Blend, made from Koroneiki and Athinolia olives, received a Gold Award at the tenth edi­tion of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition this year.

In the pre­vi­ous edi­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion, the com­pany also earned a Gold Award for its Special Edition Blend made from the same vari­eties.

Participating and receiv­ing awards in the largest and most renowned olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion in the world is a huge chal­lenge for us each year,” Magganas said. It is the recog­ni­tion of our team’s hard work, which starts in the field and con­tin­ues to the extrac­tion and bot­tling of the olive oil.”

Monogram has also intro­duced a new series of mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oils made from Koroneiki and three other select indige­nous Greek vari­eties: Athinolia, Valanolia and Maronia.

After extended research, we cre­ated the Monogram mono­va­ri­etals from four cul­ti­vars known for their unique sen­sory pro­files,” Magganas said. The phi­los­o­phy behind our mono­va­ri­etals is that the con­sumer can taste and pair their food with dif­fer­ent Greek olive vari­eties, in the same way they pair food with wine.”

Monogram’s mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oils have also found their way into restau­rant kitchens around the world and are reg­u­larly used by chefs.

It was amaz­ing that award-win­ning chefs from abroad wanted to taste and test our prod­ucts and finally decided to do busi­ness with us,” Magganas said. Their response after tast­ing our olive oils was over­whelm­ing.”

The com­pa­ny’s olive-based prod­uct port­fo­lio also includes four vari­a­tions of authen­tic Kalamata olives, the black pearls’ as the peo­ple of Monogram usu­ally call them, pack­aged into small jars filled with extra vir­gin olive oil or olive brine to pre­serve the olives.

Monogram olive oil has based and built its exis­tence around the notion of well-informed con­sumers, try­ing to inform cus­tomers about extra vir­gin olive oil at every avail­able oppor­tu­nity.

We focus a lot on edu­cat­ing the con­sumers, chal­leng­ing them to taste our olive oils,” Magganas said. So we urge our whole­sale cus­tomers, deli stores, online retail­ers, hotels and restau­rants to present con­sumers with the oppor­tu­nity to taste the oils before buy­ing and guide them through our selec­tion of olive oils accord­ing to the food they want to cook or pair with.”

The com­pa­ny’s ded­i­ca­tion to dis­sem­i­nat­ing infor­ma­tion is also evi­dent in the pack­ag­ing of their olive oils, specif­i­cally designed to con­vey data to con­sumers.

The idea is for the pack­ag­ing to resem­ble a book,” Magganas explained. The front of the pack­ag­ing con­tains the book’s con­tents, in the same way that con­sumers flip through a book so that on each side of the box, they can read the infor­ma­tion and his­tory of the olive oil. Our goal is to pro­vide as much tar­geted infor­ma­tion to con­sumers as pos­si­ble.”

We also use eco-friendly pack­ag­ing mate­ri­als, paper labels and boxes, glass bot­tles, no plas­tic at all,” he added.

Despite Monogram’s blis­ter­ing pace for­ward, Magganas knows that chal­lenges lurk ahead. However, he clearly under­stands what is needed to suc­ceed in such a com­pet­i­tive field as the global olive oil indus­try.

The road ahead is long and at the same time excit­ing,” he said. The vision of young pro­fes­sion­als can be crowned with suc­cess through the love for what they do, sci­en­tific knowl­edge and inno­va­tion.”

Our goal is to estab­lish Monogram as a seal of qual­ity and cre­ativ­ity, just like the char­ac­ter­is­tic cir­cu­lar shape of our logo,” Magganas con­cluded.


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