Monday, 13 January 2014


The buzzword these days in business is 'start-up': finding a creative conveyor-belt method of entering the business world profitably in a manageable way. The modern business world is saturated with the old tired business models of physical shops and internet services, while the new world continues to make a lot of disposable income which they are looking to spend in exciting ways.

The frozen food business is a very important part of that disposable-income world. People there have better things to do than to cook. Although I don't think much of frozen food in a box, I still liked the idea of the frozen pitas being produced by the Demetra Pies brand, which are about to start being shipped to the US: the 'Greek' label is a sure winner in the new world. Labelling a food as 'ALL NATURAL' probably has a similar image - the new world is filled with tasty hi-carb, hi-fat, hi-sugar, hi-salt processed food containing artificial additives for flavour and taste, which all pose increasing health risks. It follows that if you live in a highly regulated and concreted society, fresh food with the soil still clinging to the vegetable (and feathers still sticking to the egg shell) is probably not within your easy reach unless you are willing to pay the price for it.

What particularly caught my eye on this box was the phrase 'PROUDLY 100% GREEK'. It isn't every day you hear Greeks proudly stating their heritage, is it? It is without a doubt a sign of acceptance after the grief, denial, anger, bargaining and depression of the our recent past. 2014 seems to me like the year that Greeks finally accept their predicament and take the bull by the horns, manifested by the inspiration of young Greek minds. Demetra Pies is some kind of young people's initiative which received an award from the "Re-Inspiring Greece From the Youth Up" competition. So the idea arises from fresh optimistic minds, young Greeks who are not looking back at the problematic past of their country and shaking their heads in disgust - these young folk are providing their own answers to the issue of their survival in their country. It makes good economic sense to create a 100% natural Greek product for export. The venture also sounds like a case of small business winning over big business, using the talents of highly trained people (no more amateurism, thank you) with a future vision:
"The idea started with George Ballas, a mechanical engineer and business adviser, and Alexandros Toulias, a civil engineer and analyst at a large investment firm in Germany, who decided that they needed a product that would make them stand out from the competition. They abandoned promising careers in their respective fields and founded a food export company in Athens that promotes high-quality Greek products abroad."
Greeks need to learn to love living in their country! Any venture that sounds like someone is enjoying living and working here, instead of beating out the tired old 'dying to get out of Greece' myth makes me like it very much. After all, there is plenty to keep us here:
"The importance of the family unit in Greece has shielded many. And people here love life: even if some cannot afford essentials, they still find pleasure in their climate, landscape and culture."
The start-up possibilities in the food business for Greek people are endless because of the plethora of natural products in the country, and the fact that Greeks are accustomed to using them, effortlessly and naturally. We know our products well, even if we do seem to take them for granted.

One of our ancestral orange groves is found somewhere in this photo.

If I were thinking of some kind of start-up (using that €50,000 in start-up capital and loans that Demetra Pies received to help them along), I'd probably go for an all-orange venture using our 500 organic orange trees, processing the fruit in different ways to get a variety of products: these days, a fresh food product is not worth as much as a processed one because of the high profit margin involved in giving a product added value. The whole of Northern Europe has been brought up on the 'myth' of Vit-C content in oranges. No part of the fruit will go to waste, from the peel to the juice to the fibre: 'Greek' and 'organic' will be the magic words found on all the packaging. Apart from real organic candied orange peel for Germany's lebkuchen and real organic marmalade made from whole fruit for English breakfasts and fresh orange juice for the dark Scandinavian winters, I'd also freeze the juice in a cute small square box, which would be printed with the photo of the orange orchard where the juice came from, along with Organically Cooked's recipe for moist orange cake! And let's not forget the sidelines, like orange-flavoured honey and orange-flanoured olive oil: the new world likes these kinds of quirky food, even though they have little place in daily nutrition.

Capturing quintessential Greekness in its many forms: my orange cake is made from orange juice (of course), orange zest and extra virgin olive oil. The eggs were store-bought in this case, but the rich colour of the cake can be detected below the cracks on the top, all due to the oranges.

What is Greece all about? She's about the food, the landscape, the food, the scenery, the food, the kitsch, the food, the sea, the food, the sun, and of course, the food again. In the words of Demetra Pies:
"The reason you choose Demetra is mainly because it brings you memories and pictures of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the Greek summer breeze sliding on your skin. Exactly these memories we try to preserve from fading away..."
It's all about knowing your assets, thereby knowing yourself, and we have to remember that the world we live in is all about making money as quickly as possible, before anyone else notices: as soon as I start working on the above-said projects, somebody else bigger 'n' better 'n me will come along, and push me out of the business, either with a little handout to buy me out (so I can then retire early and write my memoirs), or by just crushing me out of the game with their brute force (which could end up in bankruptcy for me). The quicker you get into the game, the better. I hope I don't sound too cynical - that's the way the modern business world works.

If a Greek can produce something that is wanted in another bigger, richer country, I call that a moment of brilliance. But it needs start-up cash and a business model. It needs a dedicated team working towards a united measure of success and a fair division of profit. Doing everything on your own just tires you out, unless you have patience, but the world doesn't stop for anyone to catch their breath these days. Perhaps this kind of start-up is not for me because I am not young any more, and the strength I still have needs to be put to use elsewhere, but I can smell its prospects and taste its success even at a distance.

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