The popularity of Food Expo Greece last year laid the foundations for the establishment of this annual event for the food and beverage sector in Greece. The second edition of this well-attended event took place March 14-16 at the Metropolitan Expo hall near the Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens.
The Expo was housed in a 215,000 square-foot facility, with over 600 exhibitors and 35,000 visitors attending, according to the organizers. With lower than usual ceilings and intimate lighting, it provided a comfortable and easy going atmosphere for buyers from around the world to sample top quality Greek products.
A long list of Greek specialties such as olive oil and olives, seafood, wine, spirits and other delicacies were showcased. The best of Greek extra virgin olive oils were well represented by major brands through Sevitel (the Greek association of olive oil processors and related industries), as well as by many independent producers and growers.
There were olive oils in well-designed packaging to highlight the uniqueness of their brands and capture a piece of the premium olive oil market.
Efforts to produce high-quality EVOOs in the midst of economic crisis were finally paying off. Most of the exhibitors I met said they have submitted their EVOOs to the New York International Olive Oil Competition this April and are eager to join the ranks of the very best olive oils in the world.
At the Expo, visitors had the opportunity to meet producers themselves and taste a number of high-quality EVOOs.
The Governor produced by the Dafnis family from Corfu producing high-quality olive oil with awarding-winning taste. They were the first Hellenic EVOO to place the EU labeling health claim on their bottles. The Hellenic Food Safety Agency (EFET) has received widespread criticism and is under pressure from olive growers across Greece to allow high-phenolic olive oils to place the health claim on their labels.
Yannis Prodromou and family produce the Yannis Olive Grove brand in Nea Potidea, a coastal village in Halkidiki. They offer a robust EVOO from the large Hondroelia olive variety which DNA testing has confirmed was originally grafted on to Halkidiki wild olive trees. They collaborate with Perrotis College from Thessaloniki in marketing and developing best practices for grove management. Perrotis College has signed a letter of cooperation with the UC Davis Olive Center to encourage joint research and teaching, from cultivation to processing, marketing and the use of by-products, for the benefit of Greek and U.S. olive oil producers and consumers.
Cretanthos is produced by the Tzianoudakis family from early harvest Koroneiki olives which give their EVOO its strong green color and robust taste. They hail from Aggeliana of Mylopotamos — an area officially protected for its name and location.
The Kidonakis family-owned olive mill produces the Premium Select brand EVOO. They are in full control from the harvest to bottling thus ensuring the quality of the product and have managed to produce a high phenolic EVOO, tested by HPLC and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). They also have an excellent ecological program in place to recycle olive mill waste into animal feed, fertilizer and fuel.
I was impressed by an emerging sense of collaboration between small and larger independent companies to extend their reach to international markets by sharing information and resources. The Dafnis family from Corfu and the Kidonakis family from Crete are collaborating to market their unique EVOOs abroad.
The Divine Mount Olympus and the 2 Drops brands by Nature Blessed owned by Ioanna Damianaki have unique taste profiles that I could not even begin to describe. I am not an organoleptic expert by any stretch but the fruity taste was so strong it resembled a flavored olive oil. Their olive groves are surrounded by fruit orchards and this may explain the unique taste profile.
The energetic Kostas Peimanidis of Agrovim seems to be attending every show on the planet. I met him previously at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January where he gave a rousing speech at the Great Olive Oil Odyssey seminar on the high quality of Greek EVOO and proposed more imaginative ways to increase market share in the USA.
At the Food Expo, Peimanidis was with Sevitel who had a well-organized booth for their members. Peimanidis is the inveterate ambassador for high-quality EVOO and has just released a limited quantity small independent olive growers Single Estate brand. Meeting the individual grower is made easy via a QR code on the label which showcases the individual producer.
The Food Expo showcased the harmonious blend of tradition, modern science and organoleptic qualities of Hellenic EVOOs and a renewed sense of purpose and collaboration between producers across Greece.