Started from an ancestral olive farm in the Peloponnese region in Southern Greece, Laconiko is a family-owned producer of premium olive oil and balsamic vinegar products.
“The harvest happens in Greece. We have a very small window to control the quality once we pick the fruits. We rush it to our mill to crush the fruits. Then we ship the olives during the winter to the United States. Everything has to be hands-on and controlled temperature to protect our products from degrading. We process it in our facility in the US, then package it from there.” Diamantis Pierrakos, co-founder of Laconiko, explained to FoodNavigator-Asia.
Since 2019, it claimed to have secured 415 premium quality extra virgin olive oil awards. In 2021, it bagged the gold award at NYIOOC World Olive Competition – the largest olive oil contest in the world, putting the brand on the official index of the world’s best olive oils.
Pierrakos shared that consumer education to discern high-quality olive oils is key, even in mature markets such as the US.
“It was difficult at the beginning because you’re trying to convince everybody to even try your olive oil. The US market is filled with unlimited amounts of olive oil, and a lot of them do not have the highest quality. So, the door was there but the progress was slow.
“But there was always a light at the end of the tunnel because every person who was exposed to our product whom we talked to, they sense the commitment and passion we had in what we were producing, we became lifelong partners. There was a lot of word of mouth.
“When we started winning international competitions in 2013 and 2014, a lot more doors opened for us. We started showing a lot of consistency in our quality when we were awarded every year, and not once every couple of years. It started grabbing attention of consumers and potential buyers.”
Asia as a keen learner for olive oils
Aside from the US, Laconiko exports to South Korea and Japan via a distributor based in Japan, and now is looking to other countries for expansion.
“I discovered that Asia was a very new market [for olive oil], as they were not exposed in their cuisine to use extra virgin olive oil. I feel like the Asian consumers were more willing to learn as their palate hadn't been spoiled, like in the US or other European countries where they were exposed to bad olive oils and they thought they knew what good olive oil is. It was a very virgin market for Asia. So, they were more willing to learn, did a lot more research to discover and find a trustworthy brand [for premium olive oil].”
While Pierrakos did not disclose anything concrete of their expansion plans, he did hint of the firm’s plans to “enter China slowly.”
Pierrakos added that the firm is open to incorporating Asian flavours in its olive oils. Currently, Laconiko offers an interesting range of flavoured olive oils, such as chipotle, lavender, tex-mex, and citrus habanero olive oils, catering to the diverse taste buds of its American consumers.
“Our Greek cuisine is very big with lemons and oregano, so these two ingredients are in almost everything we make. These other cultures and traditions have their own unique ingredients, and I have an appreciation for these so we can offer our products that fit their needs. We’re very open to doing it.”
Balancing expansion needs with the upkeep of their brand image, Pierrakos added that one of the key challenges of export is finding “business partners that share the same values of seeking to provide quality in their products.” For example, he is very particular about the storage conditions for their products and expects its distributors to do the same.