Tuesday, December 20, 2016

From Beer To Mountain Tea

The Financial Times calls this article about two Greek companies "Hangover cure and clutching at straws drive Greece's export sales". One of the companies produces a low-calorie soft drink derived from Mountain Tea ("Tuvunu"). The other one ("Matrix Pack") makes polypropylene drinking straws. Both are small but allegedly very successful companies.

Tuvunu caught my attention because it was mentioned that they belong to the Macedonian-Thrace Brewery from Komotini, makers of the Vergina Beer. A brewery in Komotini? That triggered a bell. Something in the deep corners of my memory told me that I had read something about this before. And then I remembered.

In January 2011, the NYT had published an article titled "What's broken in Greece? Ask an entrepreneur!" It told the story of Demetri Politopoulos, a Greek American from Manhattan who had this idea of returning to his home country in order to start a brewery in Northern Greece. That was the plan. The result was that he lost over 5 MUSD in the first years of operation.

I remember that, when reading the article, I felt very sorry for the man because I felt sure that it was only a question of time until he would be forced to cut his losses and return to the US as a poorer man. So much greater my joy to read that apparently he has succeeded, Greek intricacies notwithstanding! Congratulations!


  1. In the years of crisis consumers seem to prefer products made in Greece. Vergina is one such case. Fix beer (http://www.fix-beer.gr/en) too. Green Cola from Orestiada (http://www.greencolacompany.gr/) is another success story. I 've read (http://www.kathimerini.gr/872020/article/oikonomia/epixeirhseis/h-green-cola-katekthse-th-germanikh-agora-en-mesw-krishs-sthn-ellada) that it is exported to Germany. They also have their website in German. http://de.greencola.com/

    1. "In the years of crisis consumers seem to prefer products made in Greece."

      Do you have any data to support your claim?

      Personally, I find that Greek products are still overpriced, while their quality is debatable, therefore I end up buying more imports than domestic products.

  2. I am usually apprehensive about small companies with a new product that could be easily copied by some local variation in some other geographical area.

    I think Chris says it all in this interview excerpt found in his website in Greek:

    "What difficulties encountered to make it reality?

    Initially we faced bureaucratic barriers that exist to produce an innovative product that I believe hamper any attempts to create a new production process in Greece, and for the treatment of which we have not seen is a serious effort by the competent bodies . These obstacles took much time and tenacity to overcome. And, naturally, we experience daily the "battle of the shelf", which confronts us with huge funds of multinational giants and locked distribution networks that complicate all the independent Greek producers."

    Having said that, Dimitris Chris has to try the TraderJoe's store chain in the US (of German ownership) that carries such products (in fact their stores carry a lot of different products made in Greece). All it takes is a phone call or e-mail to the traders of TJ's and they can strike a deal with you. In some cases you could sell your product under the TJ label:


    The company TJ started in southern California and its has grown nationwide under the German ownership (read the details under the "our story" tab.

    So, ask Dimitri Chris to give TJ's a try because the store chain already knows and trusts Greek products. I can actually fill my basket exclusively with Greek products and I have been a loyal TJ customer for 30 years (once I calculated that I probably spent cumulatively at TJ's roughly $600,000 but is worth it and connects me with mother Greece. When I see in the label "Made in Greece" I melt and end up buying a whole case.

  3. As a follow up any Greek company with food products that wants to be come a new vendor with TJ's here is the form (click on becoming a new vendor):


  4. Here is a good example why you can't take seriously what ND says and does about pseudo-investments (The now famous FDI upon which the future of Greece allegedly depends on). During the Samaras years supposedly the state was able to attract foreign Qatari investment which ND claimed that Syriza destroyed due to lack of pro-investment attitude.

    Yet the truth is that such an investement was a bubble and its lack of legality has nothing to do with the government rather it's the product of con-artists. You most likely freak out when you read the background of this high-profile FDI case (high profile for purely political and false purposes that is):


  5. I have supported this beer company from the beginning. Not just because it is a greek beer but because it is an outstanding product. 90% of my beer buys are to Vergina. the remaining 10% goes to FIX another good greek beer. Amstel and Heineken are not beers.

    Also support the local cola and juice companies that have arisen.

    Problem is, is that the new law targeting small breweries by increasing taxes hurts them once again. Makes you wonder why this is being done. To me it is specifically targeted. But whatever "they" do and regardless how expensive local products can become i will still support them. Just like most Greek do.


  6. Klaus:

    I have difficulty following the logical flow of your argument regarding exports of Greek food products as being sincere.

    Your thesis is that if Greeks were better packagers and better networked then they should be able to sell more in Europe and abroad.

    But contrary to your beliefs here we have a documented case of an Austrian who resides in the Mani region of Greece who not only is a good packager but also has all the famous Austrian due diligence talent needed to become a sensation in the sale and promotion of Greek olive oil.




    So according to your theory if someone can do it as well as Blauel in Mani then every German and Austrian foodmarket should be full of Blauel's olive products because not only Blauel sells a superior product but as an Austrian he knows how to sell it better than his unsophisticated Greek counterparts.

    So why Greek Olive oil by Blauel is not already a household name in Europe and most particularly in Austria (The Better Germany) as well as the less perfect state we know as common Germany whose Berlin police can't even get a suspect arrested after some maniac plows into Berlin crowds and kills indiscriminately?

  7. Concerning trade, fundamentally debt is an obligation to sell the creditor something, not an obligation to send them money, because as we know on this blog "loans create deposits", and so the money has allready left Greece, so now it is the time to consider how to get money back to Greece and repay the loans, to complete the trade and debt and credit cycle. The alternative and erroneous back to front thinking is illustrated with the IMF proposing debt relief where the creditor gets nothing for their money instead of buying the products that Greece offers.

  8. What is the Austrian position on the blunderfest by the Berlin police?

    You are not shy asking reforms from Greece but what about the reforms needed in Germany about an incompetent and dysfunctioning security system that has become the laughing stock of the world?

    1. Please remember the title of this blog!

    2. Kleingut:

      I see! So we are fixated in the wrong observation targets so that the real sinners go unpunished.

    3. I have two words in reply to your last comment: Merry Christmas!

    4. And I for you:

      Lump of coal under your tree for as long as you torture Greece.

      Best wishes for 2017.

  9. Drink Vergina if you wish, I'm all for Fix Hellas, but nobody does.

  10. That the gent of 1433 hours yesterday has difficulties following the logic is something I have assumed for a while.
    Sherlock Holmes

  11. Dear All,

    I would like to take a break from the normal commenting.

    I would like to wish you ALL, a safe, happy and warm Christmas with your loved ones. Likewise I wish you all a healthy (Physical and Mental) new year. Regardless of our differences of opinion, I know that you are all good people. I also would like to apologize to some commenters who i may have offended. I mean no harm.

    It is now a time for reflection and we may continue or battling of ideas in 2017.

    Mr. Kastner, thank you once again for your added efforts by maintaining this wonderfully objective blog. I wish you strength and diligence, to continue as you have done in the past.



    1. Dear V, thank you for your Christmas wishes which I return herewith. And also thank you for your contributions to this blog!


  12. http://www.newsbomb.gr/oikonomia/news/story/757376/symvoylos-merkel-h-ellada-xreiazetai-elafrynsi-xreoys-kai-enan-rexagkel

    "Greece plays an important geopolitical role. A strong financial Greece is in the common interest of all"

    This highlights in the Athenian / Macedonian News Agency, the president of the German Institute for Economic Research Marcello Fratser, informal adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel, as characterized by the German press.

    "Greece is a wonderful country which I very much appreciate and in many areas is very rich. In culture, quality of life, innovative minds. My assessment is that Greece has made progress in its reforms. but should not be one mocks himself to be completed in 2018 with the completion of the third program, "but" in 10-15 years, because the big problem of Greece is the state machine. They must obtain a state in which to work, where all citizens pay taxes, which will enable investors to take leave without lengthy bureaucratic procedures. Short term must consolidate public finances to a-half years to bring under control and have a perspective no longer dependent on "lenders.

    About the reactions on the Christmas gift to the low income and the freezing of debt relief says: "It is ridiculous to such dispute. but shows the real problem, the loss of confidence on both sides. I can well imagine that lenders would have no objection if openly agreed and transparent. " He adds that "both sides should act in a way that builds trust."
    The underlying theme in Marcello Fratser is "if the primary surplus of 3.5% is realistic" and argues that "if Greece is growing by 2-2.5%," it is. But he adds that "the problem is how we get this development the moment when there is the burden of debt, to achieve that surplus."

  13. Troika does notlike this sort of news because they mean stronger negotiating position for Greece:

    Will exceed initial expectations and market forecasts total tourist result of the country for 2016 estimates the Tourism Minister Elena Kountouras.

    In an interview in Athens - Macedonian News Agency, the minister -en pending the definitive data; notes that in 2016, in terms of revenues recorded an increase of 9% in the major tourist accommodations on the basis of the company GBR analyzes and in line with the Bank of Greece bank deposits increased by 2.9 billion. EUR space tourist season May-October.

    Mrs. Kountouras underlines the positive dynamics of 2016 and maintained for the next year, as shown by the first elements.

    To date bookings and messages from tour operators and partners abroad for the enlarged longer summer season from March to November reflecting an increasing trend in the levels of 20% compared to 2016 from our key markets, Ms. Kountouras notes.

    In an interview with the minister, he takes stock of the year, and focuses on the design and the ministry bet for the new year dawned.

    "The 2016 was a year - a record for our tourism," notes Minister.

    As regards the planning for 2017, the Minister noted: "We are upgrading the sun product and the sea, and at the same time in cooperation with the regions and the private sector, promote and display thematic tourism products and experiences that can attract visitors to Greece all year . "

    Mrs. Kountouras notes that plans to "further extension" of the season and emphasizes: "We are in contact with tour operators and airlines to make more direct connections, not only in season but throughout the year."

    It notes that the 2017 target is to significantly strengthen the market opened in 2016, such as the Middle East, China and South. Korea. "In addition we open the Indian market, where based on the groundwork we do see significant scope for direct visitor attraction" adds the minister.


  14. Some impressive numbers for Greek tourism for the month of October 2016. Compared with the same month for 2015 the following has been achieved:

    Increase by USA tourists 82%
    Increase by UK tourists 81.8%
    Increase by German tourists 45.6%

    Revenues for the same period experienced:

    UK receipts up by 73.2%
    German receipts up by 36.7%
    USA receipts up by 19.1%
    France receipts down by 13.8%
    Russia receipts down by 4%


  15. "We are upgrading the sun product and the sea"????

    1. She is referring to hydroplanes and the construction of several sea ports to service the new connection of islands by air. This falls under the category of "upgrading sea" infrastructure. As far as the sun product it is a general label that applies to all summer tourism (i.e. hotels and especially the introduction of 5 star product such as the Costa Navarino resort)


    2. Here is an example what "upgrading the sea" means:


  16. For a number of years now the main driver of the German economy has been consumption—not net exports and certainly not investment. Inflation-adjusted output will likely end 2016 at around 8% higher than its precrisis 2008 level. Around 90% of this growth came from private and public consumption. External trade contributed only one percentage point. Gross investment has given no push to demand whatsoever since 2008.

    Current account surpluses at such an elevated level run counter to the principles of international cooperation. In the Maastricht Treaty, the EU determined that no member state should have a trade surplus larger than 6% of GDP (which is quite a lot already).

    Germany exceeds even that elevated level by 50%. For this, it is rightfully criticized by the EU Commission.

    It bears highlighting that no such development was envisaged when the European monetary union was established. At that time, the Federal Republic’s trade accounts did not even show any surplus, the country even had a slight deficit.

    This underscores just how much things have gotten out of hand.

    The main victims of the German current account surpluses are the partners in the monetary union — as well as the United Kingdom, the United States and the emerging and developing countries. They all have good reason to fight back against the German surpluses.

    Little wonder that the U.S. Treasury speaks of a risk to financial stability.

  17. Now ask yourself this: To how much of that money will Germany realistically have recourse when push comes to shove, in times when it may really need the money – receipts from past exports — again?

    Not much — and certainly far less that what the current account shows.

    Look at this same issue in the context of the public debate in Germany about the eurozone. There, Germans complain that they are so often asked to bail out other countries. They also stand hard and fast against any whiff of a transfer union.

    What all these Germans fail to see is that this transfer union already exists, in a de facto manner.

    Worse, it hasn’t come about due to some inside deal between the European Commission, the French and Italian governments. No, the people who have established this transfer union is the Germans themselves.

    Properly understood, a country maintaining a massive current account surplus effectively gives large loans to other countries on an entirely voluntary basis.

    The clearest indication how clueless most Germans are on this is that they are so proud of the trade surplus. They basically see it as a sign of their virility.

    What’s a better approach?

    Given that maintaining such a gargantuan surplus is certainly not in the Germans’ own interest, how best to reduce it?

    The German government demands from other states with good reason that they bring their domestic house in order (by not borrowing so much). But that shoe is also on the other foot, so to speak. Germany, by “virtue” of its trade surplus, lends too much.

    What are the domestic reforms needed in the German economy?

    In the period before monetary union, the answer was simple. If a country had current account surpluses, its currency appreciated. Exports declined (now costlier) and imports (now less costly) rose.

    In a monetary union with a fixed exchange rate, achieving that adjustment process is more difficult. Some recommend that wages in Germany should rise more. However, this would deteriorate competitiveness.

    This is not a reasonable solution. One should not try to solve a collective problem by having the better performer adapt to the standards of the lesser one.

    If the exports are expected to expand more slowly, and the ultimate aim is for domestic demand in Germany to increase, then domestic investment must be increased. That way, firms can busy themselves in the domestic economy, reducing their international exposure.

  18. A monster primary suplus for Greece; almost 10 BEUR better than expected:


  19. Interesting survey: