The KIKU apple brand has become one of the most recognizable apple brands in Greece. The brand is being introduced in Greece by the company Emphyton founded in 1997. “As you can imagine, establishing a new brand isn’t easy,” says George Poultsidis of Emphyton.
“The market for apples is growing, but there was only one proper brand on the market which is Zagorin. I saw opportunities in the market. We met the family Braun in Girlan 15 years ago and it all started. That meeting in my 25th year changed my professional life. We wanted to create a brand and grow it as a whole, meaning both with the nursery of apple trees, the fruit trade and by providing tech support for growers interested in KIKU. This whole cycle from nursery to consumer seems to work really well. It has allowed us to establish ourselves on the market. The nursery gave us a lot of contacts. All of this helped a lot with regards to the end product.”
Under the name of Emphyton, the company branched out in the domestic and export trade of fruit. Emphyton started working with the apple brand KIKU by introducing it into the Greek market.
According to George, Emphyton strives to achieve natural production. The production methods aren’t quite fully organic, but the company is trying to work as naturally as possible. They also support other growers by providing technology and advice on eco-friendly nutrition and solutions to achieve better yield and quality.
From 2010 onwards, Emphyton has been gaining a foothold in Serbia through a sister company called Nutri Leaders. “We’ve been exporting trees and providing our services to Serbian growers. We’re not only working with fruit producers, but also with vegetable farms and open field growers.”
George added that the activities in Serbia came about by sheer luck. “Back in 2006, we had some customers over in Serbia that bought some of our trees. In order to properly advise our customers on the use of plant nutrition, we came over to Serbia to visit the orchards of our clients. One by one, neighbors of those clients started to ask for our advice as well. In due time, we managed to create a business plan, which in turn led to our sister company Nutri Leaders.”
While Emphyton emphasizes innovation, most Greek growers tend to be traditional and hesitant to change their ways. In spite of that, the company has managed to sign contracts with over 50 growers in order to start the production, packaging and branding of KIKU apples. “The success of our brand lies with the standardized production. We provide a single consistent product and manage to have an honest relationship with both our growers and with the end consumer.
New apple season
The season for KIKU apples usually starts from the middle of October until the end of April. The peak season occurs in December and January, with a smaller spike happening at the end of the campaign in April. The last season for apples in Greece has been hard. Hail and frost damage has led to a decrease in volume of 40% to 45%. This affects both the domestic trade and export.
However, there currently isn’t any proper competition abroad for Greek apples. “We’re expecting some apples from Poland in January, but Poland has been suffering from the extreme weather as well. Other competing countries are Italy, the south of Germany and the southern Hemisphere, but there isn’t any competition right now. This should pick up around January or February.”
All production of KIKU apples is destined for the domestic market. Emphyton also produces some red apples, which are being exported to the Middle East. According to George, the consumption of apples in Greece has been stable in the last two or three years. Consumption may have slightly diminished recently due to financial factors.
“Red apples are the most popular, due to their appearance. However, their taste isn’t as good as their looks. Traditionally, most consumers love to eat with their eyes, so to say. In the last five years, preferences seem to be changing. Consumers demand a better taste and are becoming more specific in their demands. They’ll now choose for either sweet or acidic apples. KIKU apples are the sweetest in the market with a fresh and crunchy taste.”
In order to push the KIKU brand on the Greek market, Emphyton had to invest a lot in promotion. “We put adverts on specific places to get the general public to know about our apples."
“We also have a standard pricing policy from October to April, which helped in building a strong commercial network. In general, Greece has two market segments, one for consumers with high incomes and one for consumers with low incomes. There isn’t really any middle ground. The higher market segment consumes a lot, but this also means that the pricing policy needs to be taken care of in detail.”
“The market in Greece is a bit different from those in other Western countries, like Italy or Austria. Greek consumers don’t accept changes easily. It will take some time to establish a new brand on the shelves. Right now, I think KIKU is the second strongest apple brand in Greece. In third place, there are only apples that do not carry any brand,” says George in conclusion.
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Author: Peter Duivenvoorde / Yzza Ibrahim