Achilleas Angelopoulos, CEO, KYKNOS Greek Canning Co.

KYKNOS Greek Canning Company was officially founded on April 1st 1915 by the merchants Athanasios V. Papantoniou, Ioannis G. Darmos, and Vassilios Athan. Papantoniou; a physics professor, Michael D. Manoussakis, and a farmer, Constantine D. Manousakis. It has evolved into a supplier of tomato based products for many brands throughout the world.

Total Food Service caught up with KYKNOS CEO Achilleas Angelopoulos to learn more about the company’s past, present, and future.

Can you share a history of Kyknos with our readers?

Our history begins over a hundred years ago as a small vegetable and fruit packing operation. Our long journey is a tale of love and commitment passed down from generation to generation.

The founders of KYKNOS saw an opportunity to process and preserve Greek agricultural products, much of which would rot in the field otherwise. The first products produced under the KYKNOS brand were canned whole tomatoes, okra, green beans, and tomato paste.

At this early stage, production was limited to a small canning facility, but in 1928 the company established the first factory in the picturesque city of Nafplio in the Peloponnese, installing the first rapid concentrators in Greece.  The region of Argolis where Nafplio belongs, was known as the “Athenian orchard,” offering a rich harvest of produce for the Greek capital, all year round.  At that time, production was highly labor oriented, manufacturing both the cans and the products with which they are filled.

As KYKNOS continued to grow, the need for renovation and innovation grew; in 1950 the factory is renovated by the architect Kalliklis, creating a new industrial building that was a unique, avant-garde symbol of architecture of the time.

Between 1960 and 1963, KYKNOS acquires two more factories, the latter of which is located in Savalia, close to ancient Olympia, where the sunny valley of the Elia region offers a very rich harvest of top-quality tomatoes

Innovators since the company’s inception, KYKNOS launched ketchup for the first time in the Greek market in 1965, and by 1970 became known as a worldwide export company and strategic supplier across the globe.

Committed to sustainability and innovation, KYKNOS continues to produce new products: in the 1990s they introduced a line of tomato products produced in paper aseptic packs; and in the early 2000’s KYKNOS became the first company in Greece to be certified according to the EurepGAP standards for integrated crop management of the industrial tomatoes that it processes.

Achilleas Angelopoulos Kyknos
Achilleas Angelopoulos

Thanks to this close integration of crop management and production, KYKNOS continues to act as a leader in the industry, creating top-quality products, leading to the win of multiple Great Taste Awards for a variety of the products produced.

Still today, KYKNOS holds true to our founders’ ethos of preserving the rich bounty of agricultural products Greece has to offer, as we continue to grow and expand our reach and capabilities for a better, healthier future.

Has foodservice always been part of your target?

While Kyknos products are loved and used every day by millions of consumers in Greece and abroad, we have always held chefs in the highest regard, and work in close cooperation with them as their expertise is an opportunity for Kyknos to develop new product lines, and of course, new
inspiring recipes.

What are the foodservice markets that provide opportunity for the Kyknos line: Restaurants, College and University, Healthcare?

Kyknos specializes in the processing and packaging of agricultural products, especially tomatoes. Every day we work to offer delicious, clean, plant-based, nutritionally dense products in an ethical and sustainable way across the food chain from farmers to the end consumers. To achieve our vision, we closely cooperate with farmers, the scientific community, and available technologies (i.e. smart farming) to improve and increase the production and yield of agricultural products.

Restaurants are, of course, a natural placement for Kyknos products.  However, food service solutions for College & University systems and Healthcare institutions are perfectly aligned with our objective to provide younger generations and people in need with the healthiest options available. We feel that these are channels that deserve great focus, based on our company values and the quality of our products – we know we can make a difference.

Can you please walk us through the highlights of your lines? What’s the latest that you would like U.S. chefs to be looking at and sampling?

Though it may seem like a simple product, our best-selling tomato paste is the ultimate tool in a chef’s culinary arsenal; with its incredible taste, color, and aroma, Kyknos Tomato Paste can enhance any dish and deliver an “explosion” of tomato flavor.

Additionally, it is extremely rich in lycopene, a very important antioxidant for our body.

Special tip for men: Eating one teaspoon of tomato paste every day is associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer, as suggested by various scientific studies.

We also created an amazing ketchup line: the unbelievable quality of our tomatoes used, together with our secret recipe, creates a ketchup line which deliver superb, intense tomato flavor. Though different from the traditional brands that people in USA are used to consuming, I can guarantee that once you try it, you will LOVE the taste!

And, when thinking of tomato-based products, they think of tomato sauce, and Kyknos has developed a range of truly Greek recipes for pasta sauces, based on ingredients such as Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, warming spices, and others.  Our pasta sauces are truly unique with excellent depth and balance of flavor.

Do you think that North America tends to be too Italian-centric when it comes to tomato based products? How can Greek tomato-based products complement Italian products?

As we are all part of the Mediterranean region, we have great respect for Italian products and cuisine. However, despite the many similarities between our two countries, the small scale of agricultural areas in Greece, the type and quality of the soil, the combination of cultivation areas close to the sea, and the smaller scale of production produce high quality, delicious products.

Kyknos is confident in the plans for our official relaunch in the US Marketplace, as we identified the right business partner, and are collaborating with Chef Maria Loi to fully support our organic growth.

For us, delivering tasty, flavorful, high-quality products without compromise at a competitive price point is non-negotiable – we believe that this will ensure our success.

As our first initiative to familiarize the US Market with Kyknos products, we are participating in the holiday pop-up, the ‘Loi Specialty Shop’ at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, where the reception of our products has been exciting and encouraging!

Pizza is on every menu from restaurant to healthcare. Please make the case for the signature pie that can be created with Greek pizza sauce.

Pizza has become a ubiquitous part of culinary culture, and while people credit the Italians for pizza, the truth is that it’s actually Greek – pizza is really ‘Pita’ with two T’s!

Originally a peasant food, it was a simple, healthy, nutritious dish for every day consumption; during the period of Magna Graecia, or Great Greece, the Greeks brought their pita making traditions to what is now known as Italy, and over time, it evolved from pita to pizza.

Chef Maria Loi, our Kyknos Culinary Ambassador, says that all you need to make a fantastic Greek pitta (pizza) is extra virgin olive oil, your preferred Kyknos tomato product, some Feta cheese, and basil, and you’ve got a healthful, delicious dish for anytime.  She absolutely LOVES the Kyknos Pizza Sauce, because it has perfectly seasoned bright, fresh tomato flavor and is the ideal texture for saucing the dough, but also says that you can use any tomato sauce or tomato paste if you like!

How does your business go to market in Greece and Europe? Distribution or Direct sales?

In Greece, as we are the market leader in the tomato business, we service all national and regional retailers directly, while using distributor for small trade.

In Europe we have partnerships with major distributors, though in many cases we also have direct contact with national customers to support the Kyknos brand.

What is that Greek distributor looking for in a manufacturing partner?

I would say that any distributor – not only a Greek one – is looking for quality products, consistency in cooperation, potential for new product development, and stability in financial terms.

What led to the decision to bring Kyknos to the US?

Kyknos products have been in the US market for some years, though the focus has primarily been on Greek communities.

However, over the last couple of years we have noticed the increasing popularity and trendiness of Greek products, while simultaneously gaining many customers in international markets based on our quality.  Between these different factors, we decided that the strategic expansion of Kyknos into the US mainstream is the best next step.

When did you begin importing to the U.S. and what have you found to be the biggest differences between doing business in Greece vs. North America? Distributors with private labels that compete with brands like yours that they are stocking?

In Greece, KYKNOS is the reference point and the iconic brand for tomato products; therefore distribution is already fully covered in all channels and for all customers. Additionally, there is tremendous brand recognition (98% awareness and 75% household penetration).

Starting our expansion into the US marketplace, we do realize that while we are a high-quality brand, we are still an unknown entity to the masses, and therefore we have to start on a small scale, focusing our efforts in strategically selected areas, channels and customers, in order to have the opportunity to build the Kyknos brand along with our distribution.

How do you support chefs and food service professionals that are looking for menu input?

Kyknos has always believed in providing support, resources, and recipes for the culinary professionals who use our products.  In cooperation with Chef Maria Loi, our Kyknos Culinary Ambassador, we can always train professionals and support effective solutions for menus and dishes.

What’s the next step for an operator that would like more info on the Kyknos line?

Everyone can reach us via our website, and we will facilitate the information and requests to our strategic partners in the USA.

The post Achilleas Angelopoulos, CEO, KYKNOS Greek Canning Co. appeared first on Total Food Service.

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