LYNDHURST, NJ – Loumidis has long been synonymous with high quality and especially traditional Greek coffee through its Papagalos brand. The company began in Greece in 1920 when three Loumidis brothers, Antony, Nikos, and Jason, decided to leave their hometown of Karistos on Evia and moved to Athens, in search of a better future. Their success eventually brought the company to the United States. Loumidis Foods was incorporated in 1992, opening an office on Northern Boulevard in Flushing, NY, marking the beginning of Loumidis’ expansion into the United States and Canada.
As the business grew with the success of their Papagalos coffee, the company attracted other important Greek food companies who entrust the distribution of their brand-name products to Loumidis Foods Inc., on an exclusive basis.
Requiring more space to accommodate the new products, Loumidis moved to a warehouse in Astoria, and then made the move to Lyndhurst, New Jersey where the company’s facilities are now located. Loumidis Foods continues to thrive, rooted in its core values and mission as a family business, bringing the highest quality brands and products from Greece to the United States and Canada not only for the Greek diaspora consumers, but for all those who love Greek food.
The National Herald made the trip across the Hudson River to tour the state-of-the-art facility and meet with the company’s Chief Executive Officer Iason Loumidis, Chief Operating Officer Kimon Loumidis, and General Manager Thanasi Economou to discuss the company and its bright future as it looks to further cement its status as the standard-bearer for high quality Greek products for the retail and the food service industry.
Iason Loumidis noted that the company’s deep ties and connection to the Greek community remain strong and introduced the new General Manager Thanasi Economou, a Greek-American who also has strong ties to the community, to explain how the company is working on giving back, not merely supplying Greek-owned businesses with the top Greek products for their store shelves and restaurants, but also taking an interest in helping them achieve their business goals.
Loumidis pointed out that they maintain excellent relations with the Greek-American companies they began doing business with early on in the company’s history, including Krinos and Optima, and their business model, bringing traditional Greek coffee to the diaspora, was one that food companies in Greece needed. He said, “We decided to present it to companies we knew personally and professionally, like Palliria with its line of prepared foods, Papadopoulos with its famous cookies, Misko, the pasta company, CretaMel with Orino honey and other products made with honey like pasteli, the Greek brands associated with high quality, so all the products we distribute are top quality and there is a bit of romanticism and memory associated with the products for the diaspora community. This philosophy sustained us in recent years, and most recently we expanded into food service with MFG (My Favorite Gyro) and a new channel opened for us in restaurants and the food service industry. Cooperation with other companies we already worked with continued, strengthening our presence in New York and New Jersey with more deliveries and more trucks, at the same time, we built a significant sales force and a strong team of colleagues in all the company’s departments, accounting, payroll, customer service, the warehouse was strengthened, the truck routes, and we developed a reliable solution for importing, distribution, sales, and promotion of foods for retail and food service.”
Kimon Loumidis added that in relation to gyro, the company has expanded to refrigerators and freezers as well.
The refrigerators and freezers at the facility keep the products at the optimum temperature and the trucks are all equipped with refrigeration and freezers which allow for further expansion with more products from well-known Greek food companies Olympus and Ioniki, Iason Loumidis noted.
He said that “the company’s goal, for the next 4-5 years, is to be the number one reference for Greek brand name products in the retail and food service categories, focusing on the Northeastern U.S. market.”
“We have great respect for our competition, we have jointly created new conditions for the development of Greek products and Greek cuisine and we think that everyone working in importing and distributing Greek foods should work together to expand the market and the opportunities will expand for all, like we have seen with the Spanish and the Italians,” Loumidis said.
Of the move to the facility in New Jersey, Loumidis said the access to the main highways, transportation arteries, and the ports made the location an ideal choice as it also allowed the company to better serve its customers in New Jersey while continuing to serve the New York area as well.
He noted also the connection between Greek food and tourism, especially the growing numbers of tourists from the U.S. visiting Greece who return home with a taste for the unique Greek products they tried while on vacation, a specific brand of yogurt or feta or extra virgin olive oil, for example, and this in turn helps the Greek food companies and the food service industry.
Greek yogurt in particular, Loumidis said, “has become a country ambassador for Greece, whenever the word Greek is used in relation to food, it immediately has a positive perception, because everyone who recognizes and eats Greek yogurt eats it for its health benefits and nutritional value, and because it is a much better product than the usual, non-strained yogurt, so Greek means ‘good’ and ‘high quality’ when it comes to food. That is why when we see businesses coming from Greece and opening stores in the U.S., like Theophilos Fournos and GFG, we should support them so they can be successful and increase awareness of Greek products.”
Loumidis mentioned that the company will soon expand the range of Greek products with high quality Greek beer and wine as well.
Economou added that eventually e-commerce is also on its way, to expand “the vision of the company beyond the borders of New Jersey and New York, and to share this with the whole country, the only way we can reach out to certain communities, Greek communities in particular, is through e-commerce, so the company is not just looking at premium products, Greek products, we want to import and share with the rest of the country but also a vision of what the company can be and should be, and the only way we can do that is by building our brand.
“Within that brand we may have various brands, so we are looking into anything and everything that promotes our mission statement, we want to be the number one reference as Iason said, but at the same time everything about our culture is surrounded by food, you have a celebration, it’s food, something terrible, you’re still going to eat. It’s embedded in our lives, our food, when people say the Greek diet, I try to explain to them, it’s not just the way we eat, it’s the way we go about eating, it’s with family, it’s about sharing, it’s that constant involvement and when people hear us speak that way, for people who are not Greek, they can envision where they were in Greece the first time, what they ate at the taverna, the grilled octopus, and all of a sudden, they understand, they try our products, and they buy them.
“It’s an education, an experience they can walk away from and say, ‘I really enjoyed myself,’ and that’s the difference between Greek restaurants and food places and high-end traditional restaurants in the United States. It’s the person who owns it, who recognizes his customers and says ‘hi, how are you?” the people love that and that’s why they keep coming back. For us, we want to keep that same momentum in everything we do. That’s what attracted me to join the company, the Loumidis family, the story behind who they are, like any Greek you grew up drinking Greek coffee, it’s Papagalos, and now I’ve had the opportunity to put my background with the source and get the story from the beginning, and I love that. I think we’re just at the surface of what we can be as a company and it’s the experience that we’re bringing, it’s not just a product, it’s everything that goes along with it.”
Loumidis pointed out that “the Greek restaurants opening now one after another in Manhattan in recent years are offering something above and beyond what we were used to, a well-rounded experience, and have become an obvious choice for restaurant-goers like other cuisines, Italian or Chinese.”
Economou said, “In Bergen County, where I live, all the new restaurants that are opening are Greek, and the people are running to them. Our Greek food service customers have customers who eat at their establishments six times a week because of the consistency, it’s not overpriced, it always tastes great, and everything is fresh.
“As these businesses grow, we also grow, but we’re not just looking out for ourselves, if there’s a business that needs help, we ask them and they tell us, if they need someone to help in finance or website design, from the people we know, why shouldn’t we introduce them to someone who can help their business grow which in turn helps our business grow.”
When asked about overcoming the reputation Greeks have for not working together, Economou said, “For the first time, I’m seeing a change in the right direction, I think many of us are just tired of going to functions, networking with associations, and never getting anywhere, so people are starting to be more vocal about the fact that we need to work together, we can help each other, and we can be a much better organized ethnic group than we’ve been in the past.
“We have to stop thinking ‘what’s in it for me’ all the time, sometimes it’s just for the sake of doing something because it’s the right thing to do, it doesn’t benefit you directly but in the long run it does create a foundation and a trust among people, you know what he didn’t get anything out of it but he did it anyway, I like that, and I think we can change our approach to how we treat one another.”
“We all tend to come together when it’s important and we can be effective collectively, it’s just to be more consistent about it, and hopefully that will be the trend moving forward and I think if we do that and get the mission statement out there of who we are as a culture that easily translates to what we do in business. It’s something we’re committed to,” Economou concluded.
More information about Loumidis Foods is available online: loumidisfoods.com.