Clas­sic Greek cheese pie to head to US

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Four friends came to­gether with the aim of mak­ing the clas­sic Greek cheese pie a sta­ple on Amer­i­can din­ner ta­bles with their Deme­tra Pies brand of frozen prod­ucts, which was re­cently awarded in the Re-In­spir­ing Greece From the Youth Up com­pe­ti­tion.

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. Frozen foods such as tra­di­tional Greek cheese and spinach pies are the main area of their fo­cus and the US is the mar­ket they have set as their first tar­get.

The orig­i­nal team of two has now been joined by Gerasi­mos Skalt­sas, a civil en­gi­neer and res­i­dent of Chicago, Illi­nois, and Dim­itris Skalt­sas, also a busi­ness con­sul­tant.

“For us, the cri­sis acted as an ad­di­tional im­pe­tus to do things we love,” Dim­itris Skalt­sas ex­plains.

The team ba­si­cally saw four fac­tors work­ing in their idea’s fa­vor. The first was that while the Amer­i­can frozen food mar­ket is a ma­jor in­dus­try with stiff com­pe­ti­tion, it has not seen a ma­jor breakthrough in sev­eral years and seemed poised for “the next big thing.” Se­cond was the re­cent suc­cess of a num­ber of prod­ucts in the US la­beled as “Greek,” such as yo­gurt, which has be­come syn­ony­mous with high nu­tri­tional qual­ity. Last but not least is the sim­ple fact that Amer­i­cans just can’t seem to get enough of pies.

The fledg­ling com­pany en­tered a com­pe­ti­tion in Novem­ber or­ga­nized by In­dus­try Dis­rup­tors and Gaea, a lead­ing Greek pro­ducer and ex­porter of lo­cal prod­ucts such as olives, ti­tled Re-In­spire Greece and aimed at in­spir­ing young Greeks to start their own com­pa­nies in the agribusiness sec­tor. Awards of 50,000 eu­ros in cap­i­tal and soft loans were pro­vided to eight food star­tups, among them Deme­tra Pies, along with sup­port from var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Amer­i­can Farm School of Thes­sa­loniki.

Deme­tra Pies aims to de­but on US su­per­mar­ket shelves within 2014.

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