Galaktoboureko, baklava, ravani and so on. Greek oven-baked sweet treats offer their fair share of sinful pleasure not only in local pastry shops, but in delis and stores all across the globe, as well.
Story: Vana Antonopoulou
Greek baked and syrup desserts fall into two categories: pastries made with flour dough (wheat or nut) or semolina, then baked in the oven and afterwards covered with sugar or honey syrup. This category includes the walnut pie, yogurt pie, samali, and ravani or revani from semolina. The second category refers to sweets made from phyllo pastry and nuts, then baked in the oven and covered with a syrup made from sugar, lemon and water. Such sweets are baklava, kadaifi, galaktoboureko, Beirut kadaifi (with matsola pastry, flour and a type of corn flour called niseste), kanafeh (made from thin noodle-like pastry called kadaifi and stuffed with white cheese cream), and ekmek kadaifi, which apart from syrup, is also covered with a layer of pastry cream and whipped cream on top.
Traditional recipes and innovation
The bakery market has been constantly growing due to the development of new technologies related to the preservation of natural ingredients. And as quality-conscious consumers continue to demand products of a home-made nature from their supermarkets, c-stores, foodservice operations, etc., Greek pastry producers have a great opportunity to improve profits by providing retailers with a diverse selection of offerings. The result is a constantly-growing industry where quality, safety, health-awareness, and innovation go hand-in-hand.
With decades of knowledge and experience offering dessert solutions, not to mention the use of unique traditional recipes, Greek companies are a strong and reliable partner for international businesses to ensure that products meet customer expectations.
As Athena Kolionasios, owner and Managing Director at Kolionasios Baklava Gold, which specializes in baklava, specifies, “The rich pastry tradition in almost every part of Greece has helped a growing number of local companies try their hand in the baked and syrup pastry market. Combining the expertise and marketing resources to address a global audience, we are using our best creative skills to offer products suiting the modern consumer dietary concerns and gastronomic preferences. Our vision is to use the great food traditions of the Mediterranean as a platform for new taste experiences in full compliance with the international quality standards and market trends.”
And as product awareness together with a need for more exciting flavors is growing, pastry producers are hiring chefs and others with culinary training, as well as nutritionists in order to deliver safer, better, healthier, and more appetizing products. Greek baked sweets companies are currently developing new varieties for delis, c-stores and foodservice operations, while trying to create products as close to the consumers’ notion of home-made as possible in order to get a piece of the action –pun intended.
“We have experimented extensively with an abundance of ingredients to reach the final product. In fact, we put our customers in the testing process because they are the ones who have direct contact with the end-user of our products and can convey consumer preferences,” says Ms Yiorkia Papa, owner of P. Papa SA, producing frozen patisserie desserts and, of course, baked sweets, such as orange pie and galaktoboureko.
Exporting the Greek know how
It is safe to assume that tradition and innovation are the cornerstones of the Greek baked sweets production, and the defining elements of its growing success in the global marketplace. “There is a profound certified production know-how. It is no coincidence that we are now targeting many different markets, both in Greece and abroad, such as pastry shops, bakeries, catering units, brasseries, hotels, cafes, c-stores, etc. Our goal is to constantly upgrade our productive activities and services with new flavors and offerings, always to the benefit of our customers,” continues Ms Papa. “We use blast freezers to deep freeze our products so that all the flavor remains intact as if it just came out of the oven.”
“Baklava is indeed the most difficult to make –no wonder it has been the sweet of choice of the rich and the powerful for centuries,” insists Athena Kolionasios. “Artificial preservatives or freezing disturb this balance and downgrade the sweet. In fact, we have been developing this process for decades making our baklava perfect for exports, promising a rewarding customer experience every single time.”
As a result, traditional Greek baked and syrup pastries and delicacies have established a strong interest in international markets, especially from countries in the Middle East where desserts such as these are part of their culinary tradition, as well as parts of the world where there is significant Greek diaspora (Canada, Australia, the US, etc.) fueling sales for products from the motherland. Canada, in particular, is the market with the most potential in the frozen pastry category, with a steady increase of 50 percent in the last five years.
“Baked sweets are part of the Greek tradition, which makes Greek companies experts in the field”
Maria Vrettou, Managing Director at Vrettos Sweets, a family business specializing in traditional syrup desserts, discloses that “Countries with a strong Greek element, such as Germany, have a large share of sales. In recent years, due to the increase of immigrants from the East, syrup and baked sweets are now placed in more and more countries as a permanent code or in-out promotion. There are two ways to export baked and syrup sweets: a) deep freeze (for foodservice and the HoReCa sector) and b) vacuum and PET trays (for retail). All are enclosed in moisture control films.”
“In recent years, the shift towards the Mediterranean diet, and more specifically Greek products and Greek ingredients, has buyers interested even more in Greek sweets. Baked sweets are part of the Greek tradition, which makes Greek companies experts in the field,” explains Mr Panagiotis Karachalios, President & CEO of Rodoula SA, one of the most established Greek companies for frozen dough products and sweet delicacies. “The most popular offerings are baklava, kadaifi, orange pie and walnut pie and of course all their variations (baklava triangles, chocolate baklava, etc.)”