(Interview with Greekreporter.com news agency)
Back in the early 1990s the word “organic” meant nothing to most Greeks. Food was food and olives were olives. Sure, there were different kinds of olives — with the ones from Kalamata being the most popular — but “organic olives” were two words that were never put together in the same sentence.
Not in the case of George Sakellaropoulos, a Spartan who believed that his homeland was ideal for producing great olives, and organic olive oil, due to its soil and climate. And he has been dedicated to that for almost 30 years now, under the brand name “Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms.”
“When we started in 1992, we were entering into uncharted waters, because organic farming was completely unknown then in Greece. We chose our area, Sparta, Laconia, where the conditions (climate, soil, zero environmental pollution) are ideal for the cultivation of olives, which have been cultivated in this area for many years,” he tells Greek Reporter.
Nowadays, supermarkets, grocery stores, delicatessens and dedicated organic product shops all carry organic products. Sakellaropoulos explained to Greek Reporter why it is especially important to farm and consume organically.
“Organic farming is a completely natural farm practice, but also a philosophy of working together with nature,” he relates. “It involves a plethora of benefits, compared to many unsustainable practices. We do not use any toxic chemicals to increase production, thus protecting humans from unnecessary harm, as well as the natural microorganisms found in nature, promoting biodiversity.
“Simultaneously, organic farming is a means to reduce environmental and water pollution, as well as the damage done over the years to the local environment, including the different species that coexist with each farm,” Sakellaropoulos says.
The consumption of organic products is not very common in Greece. Not until now, at least. After ten long years of economic recession, the average Greek consumer is too cost-conscious to delve fully into the organic foods territory. This is why Greek producers of organic goods have turned to the more prosperous international markets.
And it is in those markets that the company’s extremely high-quality products have won a total of 203 international awards(!).
“Organic Farms is an export-oriented company which invests in an outward approach,” the producer explains. “Through our awards and innovation, we have managed to steadily increase our clientele.
“At this moment we export to 16 countries worldwide, where we provide 90 percent of our production. Some of them include the USA, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany.”
And what is it that is so special about Greek olive oil, and Sakellaropoulos’ organic olive oil in particular, that earned its producer so many international awards?
“Greece is a land where olive trees have been cultivated for centuries. They are closely connected with the Greek culture and have been a part of it for many years,” Sakellaropoulos says. “Thus, the olive oil produced in Greece carries all the specific characteristics of the land, the climate, the soil properties and the micro characteristics of each part of Greece.”
The Greek producer is very proud of the awards his products have won in competitions all over the world. Yet, the very first award he won — much like a first-born child — is the one that made him most proud:
“If I had to choose one, it would be our first award for our “Telies” olives that were awarded two golden stars at the 2012 London Great Taste Awards – the so-called “Oscar of Tastes” – among 10,000 quality foods from all over the world,” Sakellaropoulos says with pride.
“That was our first award in our first participation in an international competition, 20 years after the establishment of our company. That award showed us that we had finally reached the top level of quality we were after.”
He continues, saying “Also, we are very proud of the unique distinction of the second place in the EVOO World Ranking in 2017 for our gourmet olive oil “Syllektikon.” But the climax of all these global awards of taste and quality came in 2018 and 2019, where our two different multivarietal extra virgin organic gourmet olive oils, Majestic blend EVOO and Gemstone blend EVOO, were honored for two consecutive years, with a 1st place in the EVOO World Ranking of olive oils, setting a new record in their category.”
Of course the coronavirus outbreak affected Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms like the rest of the world, putting a crimp in their export plans. Yet the producer from Sparta is optimistic that collaboration with his global clientele will make this nothing but an obstacle that can be surpassed with ease.
“The coronavirus crisis has affected almost everyone, regardless of the specific focus of any company. Despite that, we believe that strong, longtime business partnerships are at the core of each company’s success. We have a specific clientele that grows each year, through healthy and mutual collaborations,” Sakellaropoulos states with assurance.
For more information visit the official site here.