The secret of a successful business, according to modern management, is to be able to reinvent itself every 18 months. The Agricultural Cooperative of Zagora, over the last 100 years, has found the way to achieve that dozens of times, for the benefit of its producers-members.
Today, it is getting ready to achieve it once again, placing a new bet: to enter, for the first time in its history, in the sector of food processing, launching for the first time products having as raw material the famous gem of eastern Pelion, the apple.
Last week, those who participated in the three-day event dedicated to the celebration of the 100 years since the establishment of the cooperative at Zagora, were able to taste the fruit of this new effort, the first product of apple processing under the Zagorin brand, the molasses out of the PDO firiki (a variety of apple), the first molasses based on a product other than grapes.
The apple molasses was produced in cooperation with the Women’s Cooperative of Zagora and is fully free from preservatives and additives. It will be the first processed product, while during 2017 two additional products under the Zagorin brand will follow; juice and chips from apples of the “renetes” variety, a product with low sugars as well, suitable for diabetics. The aim of the cooperative, as expressed by the General Director Dionysis Valassas, is for apple molasses to gradually enter the domestic market during the fall of 2016, starting its distribution at selected local areas and delicatessen stores.
The commercial plans of the cooperative are much wider and they target to cover domestic distribution to the entire Greek territory. In this direction, contacts are already taking place with major super-market chains in Greece such as Vassilopoulos, Sklavenitis and Lidl, which they evaluate positively the possibility of putting the product on their shelves.
Focus on France
Nevertheless, as Mr. Valassas highlighted while speaking to “YX”, the development of the new product will take place slowly and will aim at the international market, starting with France. In this direction, the management of the cooperative is in contact with Greek-Cypriot businessmen who have a strong presence in the French market by operating restaurants in Paris and also shop-in-shop with Greek products in the well-known Lafayette multistore. Starting point for the entrance in the French market according to Mr. Valassas is the international exhibition of food and drinks SIAL 2016, which will take place during October in Paris.
Although the Greek market remains the main target of the cooperative, extroversion is also a high priority, with the entry to remanufacturing opening new pathways. The markets of Middle East, Northern Africa, Southeast Europe even Russia are the main exporting targets.
The focus in the restructure of the apple orchard
Another bet of the Agricultural Cooperative of Zagora is the restructuring of the apple cultivations of the Eastern Pilion as well as the solutions of matters such as the one concerning small sized fruits. As Mr. Valassas emphasized to “YX”, in the context of the celebrative event, restructuring of the trees has already taken place at a percentage of 30% with self-funding and with resources of the cooperative. The cooperative promotes the restructuring of the entire apple orchard of eastern Pilion and the overall plan will require 20 million euros funding during the following five years while it is expected to increase the production at a level of 20.000 tons. The board members of the cooperative stated once again to the new Minister of Rural Development Vaggelis Apostolou who attended the event, their standing request for state financial support for their initiative for restructure.
Another standing request that was conveyed by the Cooperative to the representatives of the political leadership who honored the event by their presence, was the improvement of the roads of eastern Pilion which still to date hinders the transportation of products. As the harvesting period for apples is getting closer, Mr. Valassas estimated that the annual production will be increased up to 16.000 tons while the prices for the producers will be the same as last year.