NEW YORK – The Greek American Community was and will continue to be a “key” in the entrepreneurial growth and development of the longstanding and renowned Greek food company Krinos, which owns factories, storage facilities, and offices in the Unites States, Canada, and Greece. “Our company is Greek. That’s how we’re known in the market, and regardless of the fact that we have purchased other companies over the years, the Greek American Community will always be the heart and soul of Krinos Foods,” company president Eric Moscahlaidis told The National Herald in an interview.
Talking about the popularity his companys products enjoy with ethnic Greek consumers all throughout the U.S. and Canada, he noted that “despite the fact that much has changed over the years, the Greek American Community continues to represent a significant amount of Krinos’ sales.” Underscoring the importance of this business relationship, Moscahlaidis added that “we rely on Greek Americans. Our company cannot continue to expand without their help.”
Krinos’ central headquarters are located on Northern Boulevard in Long Island City, NY, along with the company’s factory and packaging plant. In total, the company’s facilities at this site cover an area of 168,000 square feet.
Moscahlaidis himself took TNH on a personal tour of Krinos’ impressive headquarters. Inside the factory, there is a special area equipped with state-of-the-art technology that is used by Krinos to produce its very own feta cheese and yogurt. Elsewhere, all kinds of different products – mostly different varieties of olives and olive oils – are packaged, while employees are on hand to see that every measure is taken to ensure that the highest standards of hygiene are adhered to. Specially designed machinery is used in the packaging plant as well to prepare the products for distribution to local retailers. Krinos storage facilities are huge, and include large compartments where foods are stored at low temperatures to preserve quality and freshness. All through this area, the familiar sight of wooden barrels filled with feta cheese stands out. This barreled feta is a particular favorite with Greek shoppers.
Krinos recently expanded its business operations, opening a new storehouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Vancouver, Canada.
“Now we cover the entire United States and all of Canada too,” Moscahlaidis said. Meanwhile, Krinos has moved ahead with the purchase of several other food service and import companies, including Hellas and EK Imports, which import Turkish products. “There were major purchases that took place over the past 10-20 years,” he explained.
But Moscahlaidis is also quick to point out that the New York area remains Krinos’ largest market.
Krinos was founded in 1958 by Moscahlaidis’ father, John, who originated from Amfissa, Greece. Today, the company provides consumers with approximately 2,500 different products. Among its wide range of foods, it produces different varieties of feta cheese, yogurt, and taramosalata (fish roe caviar) right inside its ultra-modern cheese factory, while many other edible goods are packaged inside its facilities as well. Krinos buys olives, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and other types of foods in bulk quantities, and subsequently packages them in jars, containers, plastic bags, etc.
Similar services are provided at Krinos’ facilities in Toronto, where phyllo dough is made. In the United States, Krinos owns a separate company, Athens Foods, which produces phyllo dough, spinach pies, baklava, kataifi, and various other foods that are made from phyllo.
The company has storehouses in cities all across the U.S., from where it distributes its products.
In total, there are about 500 people working for Krinos, including the employees of Athens Foods.
Moscahlaidis says that the outlook for the company’s future is positive. “In spite of the fact that the ‘Mediterranean diet’ has been the in thing for at least the past ten years, I think that there are still a lot of Americans out there who are not exactly sure what Greek cuisine is,” he remarked. “And so, there is a lot of room left for us to increase our sales, despite the financial crisis that has been going on for the past few years. The fact is that our company had the best years in its history over the past two or three years. We have grown, due in part to the other companies that we purchased, as well as the increased promotion of Greek products. Almost every American supermarket sells Kalamata olives nowadays, and everyone knows what Greek feta is. Unfortunately, they buy feta from other countries as well, not just from Greece. The point is, there is plenty of room for other Greek products to ‘catch on’ in the U.S. market.”
But there are other Greek products, like taramosalata for instance, that can secure a good position in the U.S. market as well, according to Moscahlaidis. In fact, a large American food retailer started selling taramosalata just recently.
Moscahlaidis also believes that the wide variety of Greek olives could also be better marketed, as they are a real favorite among non-Greeks. In addition, he called Attiki honey the best honey in the world. Although he conceded that it might be a little pricey, he stressed that its quality is unparalleled. From his point of view, Greek honey is another product with a lot of potential for growth in the American market.
And Krinos spinach pies, although produced in the U.S., are authentic Greek cuisine, Moscahlaidis said, noting that there is high demand for this delicacy in large supermarket chains all across America.
Of course, it’s not just Greek customers who enjoy Krinos’ foods. People from many different nationalities, like the Russians for instance, buy large amounts of Greek food. In fact, they actually consume more taramosalata than the Greeks themselves. Other loyal customers include Albanians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Turks, Lebanese, and others, who buy their fair share of Greek products as well.
“We try to explain the advantages of Greek honey and olive oil to them on a daily basis, so that they will buy even more products,” Moscahlaidis said. “Our future looks promising both in the mainstream U.S. market, as well in the ethnic markets.”
Krinos’ products were among the first to be displayed on the aisles of American supermarkets. “It is very hard for a company to have its products sold in these kinds of stores,” Moscahlaidis pointed out. “It costs a lot of money. Supermarket chains are now demanding all sorts of fees. They are also asking that these products be marketed and advertised, and generally supported by the wholesaler. In order for someone to place any product on the aisles of an American supermarket, they are going to have to be willing to spend a significant chunk of money.”
Moscahlaidis values, appreciates, and recognizes the importance of Greek food markets in the Diaspora, many of which are throwbacks to the traditional Greek grocery store, known as a “bakaliko.” “Our company was built and based on the Greek grocer, and it will continue to be based on him,” he said. “We can sell one or two products to 300 American supermarkets, but we can also sell 300 different products to Greek grocers. And so, in many instances these traditional grocery stores are more important to us than even the biggest supermarket chains.”
Krinos’ exports account for five percent of its sales. Some of the countries to which it ships its products include Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, but the quantities are relatively small.
Athens Foods has begun shipping kataifi to China, Taiwan, and Singapore, and its success is growing. In light of this newfound interest in the Far East, the company is preparing to add Chinese language labels onto its packaging.
Moscahlaidis explained that the financial crisis in Greece has caused its share of problems for his company, which imports many of its products back from the homeland. “First of all, the recurring strikes going on there are a problem,” he complained. “We run into trouble either at the ports, or with the shipping companies, or with the banks. Every so often there is a strike. Let’s not also forget that banks have made matters worse for Greek exporters. There are many companies out there that don’t have the capital to buy in bulk and ship over the products. There is always the danger that they might not make it financially. And so we are forced to loan them money so they can buy their stock and supply us with various goods. We do whatever we can to support our associates, but this is certainly not a pleasant situation. The future is uncertain for businesses in Greece right now. If the company in Greece does bad financially, it’s a problem.”
Another issue Moscahlaidis spoke about was the high currency exchange rate for the euro, which affects the consumption of Greek products in the U.S. “This is another problem,” he said. “We pay for the products in euros, and since the dollar is so weak, it’s only natural that the products will get more expensive. We have no choice but to raise prices wherever we can, and this burden is passed on to the shopper. The euro is definitely a problem.”
Moscahlaidis also explains that there is a difference between the U.S. market and the Canadian one. “I can say that we are stronger in Canada than we are here in America. Perhaps it’s because there is more of a European element over there – especially in Quebec, where the people have a close relationship with France. We are doing very well in Canada.”