In recent years, as startups have become key elements in Greece’s recovery from its economic crisis, ‘success story’ has become a popular catch phrase. The history of Loux, The largest Greek soft drink and juice company,
is proof that the best companies are perpetual success stories, through continuous innovation and management excellence. Vital principles and values were passed on from Panayiotis Marlafekas to his sons, Costas, Yannis, and Platonas. The latter, who is Vice President and Head of Marketing and Export, spoke about his family and the company.
The National Herald: Congratulations on winning Exports Leaders awards for 2021. Tell us about that, and why they are important for Loux, and for Greece.
Platonas Marlafekas: Recently Loux was awarded at the Export Leaders Awards for its performance in the field of extroversion, at the EXPORT LEADERS FORUM 2021. The exports are important not only for every business but also for the country in general. Exports promote the prosperity of our country, which also leads to strengthening the international profile of Greece. It is worth mentioning that there is a great need to connect the economic model of Greece with extroversion, focusing on critical changes in the country’s business strategy during this demanding period for the world community, due to the pandemic.
TNH: Since the Greek financial crisis, many Greek companies made breakthroughs in international markets. Is that the case with Loux, or were you focused on exports before 2010?
PM: Since our country is blessed with certain natural resources whereas others have different resources at their disposal, Loux has always been investing in exports, even before the Greek financial crisis.
Today, the firm has presence in 27 countries, including the United States. For 2020 there was an increase in company's exports, achieving exceptional sales in South Korea, Australia, the United States, Central Europe, and Cyprus. As a next step, the company has turned its attention to the consolidation of its activity in the Nordic countries.
TNH: Tell us a little bit about the Marlafekas family and how the company started.
PM: Loux – Marlafekas has a course of 70 years of history and tradition and its dominant characteristic throughout this course is the absolute respect for the consumer, mainly expressed through the strict selection criteria of the best, high quality Greek raw materials, in order to always generate unique tastes, which are always adapted to the needs of the time.
It all began in 1950, when Panagiotis Marlafekas, founder of the business, established a small production facility in the relatively restricted area of Pantokratoros Street, in the Historical Centre of Patras.
In the capital of the Achaia Region, at that time 11 businesses of similar size used to operate. The only way for someone to differentiate was to choose the best materials and, along with his own enthusiasm, to produce unique recipes with the hope that they will be chosen by the consumers of Patras. The combination of the above two factors was implemented in practice and thus, Loux orangeades, lemonades, and carbonated drinks (Gazoza), became the favourite soft drinks of Patras’ people.
As time passed, the Loux grew steadily, but the small unit at Pantokratoros Street could not cover the needs that had been generated by the market anymore. This, together with the arrival of multinationals in Greece around 1967, created the need for the relocation of the business. The objective for the new plant was greater production capacity and the implementation of advanced technologies as a response to the growing competition.
Panagiotis Marlafekas, enjoying the full support of his wife Ioanna, took the most critical decision in the history of the Company until today. He chose to relocate to the famous region of Kefalovriso, which at that time had not even the minimum infrastructure for industrial activity; there was lack of electricity, as well as lack of a telephone line. However, its subsoil contained a real treasure: its excellent water.
The criterion was still quality at any cost and the subsequent course of the company proved that had been a right choice.
TNH: The drinks industry has changed dramatically in recent years, especially regarding natural products. How has Loux developed its products and the brand?
PM: Loux has made an impact at the international level with the new generation of innovative light soft drinks Loux plus' n light, with 100% natural sweeteners, high levels of vitamin C in orange juice and in lemon juice, and 60% less calories. The company also launched in 2017 Loux plus ‘n light tea, in peach, red fruit, and lemon flavors following the philosophy of plus 'n light products. Responding to the markets’ and consumers’ needs, in 2016, Loux entered the market of low-calorie soft drinks, with the new innovative series Loux plus ‘n light with 0% sugar, 100% natural sweeteners, higher vitamin C content in orange juice and lemonade and 60% less calories. Loux plus ‘n light are the first and only light soft drinks in the Greek market that contain 100% natural sweeteners (fruit sugars, fructose, and sweeteners of natural origin) without any change in the well-known and incomparable flavor that defines all the products of Loux, upsetting substantially the market of light products.
TNH: Some of the Greek companies who have made export progress also believe in cooperating with others, even their competitors, to develop Brand Greece. What are your thoughts about this? Is it enough for each company to excel and boost the reputation for Greek products on an individual basis?
PM: At Loux we do firmly believe that cooperating with other companies, even with competitors, can develop Brand Greece and boost the Greek Economy. It is worth mentioning that Loux is a founding member of the Initiative ELLA-DIKA MAS, a union that includes certified enterprises for having a Greek headquarters, Greek production, and Greek ownership, which aims to boost our country’s economy. In ELLA-DIKA MAS we share a common value background with many purely Greek companies. Even though they are competitors, we aim to make the Greek consumer aware of the products produced in Greece, but also to strengthen the presence of Greek enterprises in international markets.
TNH: Tell us about your region and how your company fits in with the regional development plans.
PM: Patras, the birthplace of Loux, has a crucial geographical location for the regional growth of Greece. Patras is intertwined with Loux and therefore Loux with Patras, since both have contributed to each other’s development. Consumers have embraced the Loux products and the company itself, being a beloved firm that has identified its name with Patras. In fact, in the 70 years of its existence, Loux contributes in various ways to the local community and to the regional development plans of the country.
TNH: How did the coronavirus affect your operations in the past year, and how will it impact the company's future?
PM: The pandemic has affected not only Greek entrepreneurship but also worldwide markets, bringing them face to face with unprecedented conditions. Adaptability is a key factor for the future of most of the businesses.
For Loux, the losses of the ‘horeca’ channel during the lockdown were mitigated, as there was a hedge from the increase in sales in organized retail. The pandemic will have an impact on companies in the industry in the future but Loux, with careful planning and adaptability, listening and responding to the market trends and the consumers’ needs, will keep moving forward dynamically.
TNH: What are the products, traditional ones, and those you are developing, that you are moist excited about?
PM: The firm produces a wide variety of soft drinks and juices with Greek raw materials that reflect the passion of Loux to generate unique tastes and quality products that have been preferred by the consumers for more than 70 years. Among the most famous and beloved flavors are the Orangeade, the Lemonade, and the Sour Cherry.
TNH: Where can we obtain your products in America?
PM: Through its collaborations, Loux has important points of sale in America. Loux products are located in both independent markets as well as in national retailers. Moreover, customers can enjoy Loux products in most of the Greek/Mediterranean restaurants and chains, specialty stores, and a few Indian markets. Through the latest marketing ventures with our collaborators, the products will also be available in some important electronic stores.