Greek exports to Australia have grown by more than 30 per cent in the last year. With big gains in the food and beverage industry, demand for all things Greek is getting stronger.
Australia is a harsh landscape for exporters.
Exporters have to battle a marketplace deeply entrenched with local products, consumers who have immense pride in purchasing locally and cashed up multinationals reaping in whatever market share is left.
So, for a tiny Greek exporter hoping to make it in the Australian market, they have to seriously contemplate their investment.
While having Greek products on Australian shelves is nothing new thanks to the wave of migration in the ‘50s and ‘60s, what we’re seeing now is a thirst for some alternative products to join the established range.
More Greek products are now entering mainstream saturation, with new products filling the supermarket shelves, building sites and chemists.
Three of the biggest exports from Greece to Australia this year were pharmaceutical products, building materials like aluminium and marble, and of course, food and beverage products.
More than $160 million worth of exports hit our shores, bringing quality, Greek-made products to a hungry Australian market.
In the first nine months of the year, Greek exports to Australia have jumped more than 30 per cent.
Over the past six years, the amount of exports hitting Australian shores from Greece has more than doubled.
The health of the industry seems to be improving, the Greek state commissioner for trade in Australia, Vaianos Oreopoulos-Kelenis says.
“For many years the exports had been stagnant, and only recently we can see that there’s something good going, especially in the food and beverage industry,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
“The span of the importers’ range has increased, we don’t have the traditional Greek Australian importers of the past, we’ve got new stuff.”
Areas of new interest include alcoholic drinks, with a 2 per cent rise in new exporters jumping into the Australian market.
Beverages, spirits and vinegars saw an 18 per cent rise in exports, with close to AUD $3 million worth of product hitting Australian shores in the first nine months of the year.
Mr Oreopoulos-Kelenis says there’s still a lot more that Greece can do to enter the food and beverage market in Australia.
He believes this area is being underutilised, and can be harnessed by getting more exporters and local distributors connected.
“I will facilitate an exhibition of about 20 importers from here to go to Greece in March, free of charge, travel and accommodation free for four days to attend an exhibition, the Greek Food Expo, to get an idea of the new Greek products available,” he says.
The initiative is to capitalise on the work being done at local exhibitions like the Fine Food Expo and the Design Build Expo, while also tapping into the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair.
But, as helpful as getting more Greek and Australian participation in the festivals can be, there are still numerous hurdles Greek exporters and local distributors face in the Australian market.
Price discrepancy has hindered many sales of Greek products, and a lack of education also gives credence to more inferior products.
Distributors are free to charge what they think a fair price for their product and there is no control as to what the shops selling the products charge, meaning that for the same products, customers will see huge spikes in price.
“Point of sale price ranges widely,” Mr Oreopoulos-Kelenis admits.
“Particularly the Dodoni feta 1kg packet, I’ve found it between $16 and $30, which is huge.
“There are also fake products that are cheaper, like feta which comes from Denmark or Italy.
“To the eyes of the consumers, they don’t know what to do, they don’t want to buy it.”
He would like to see the distributors and the importers have a common strategy and charge competitive pricing for all point of sale businesses.
What is also hurting imported product sales is the reality that many families see imported products as luxuries, and as such buy them only occasionally.
According to figures obtained by the NSW Greek consulate, a family will spend no more than $26 dollars a month on buying imported products, and with a wide range to choose from, Greek products will only account for a small portion of that spend.
While Australia can bank on a large Greek Australian population to boost sales, the only way for a product to become really successful is to break into the mainstream market.
That is where many distributors fail.
Without a budget to market their products and not much help from a economically crippled Greece, many Greek products remain untouched.
“We’re lacking marketing, the Greek export companies don’t spend too much on it, it’s true,” Mr Oreopoulos-Kelenis says.
“A lot of local importers are complaining that they have to do all their marketing themselves.”
Considering getting a product into a supermarket leaflet costs upwards of $20,000, it’s hard to see how a sole importer can keep up with costs like that.
But while there are many challenges facing these importers, the knowledge that they are bringing a unique and quality product to a new market should give them hope.
Australians are more choosy when it comes to what to put on their dinner table, and with many Greek products adapting to the tastes and interests of the buying public, there’s a chance that shoppers can be converted to a Greek product.
Mr Oreopoulos-Kelenis wants to see the $26 a month spend on imported products double or triple in his time at the Consulate, but is realistic about what can be achieved in a short time.
He hopes more cohesion with distributors, more funds allocated to marketing and Greece stepping up its international export interests will make for a better importing landscape.
Snapshot of Greek exports to Australia
Total imports from Greece in the first ten months of 2014:
Total imports from Greece in 2013:
Total Australian exports to Greece in 2013:
Average spend of an Australian family on imported products:
$26 per month
Top ten imports from Greece:
1. Pharmaceutical products
2. Vegetables preserves, fruit, nuts or other parts of plants
3. Dairy produce, eggs, honey, edible animal products
5. Edible vegetables
6. Miscellaneous chemical products
8. Animal or vegetable fats and oils
9. Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and appliances
10. Tools of base metal: cutlery etc.
Top increases in product exports to Australia from Greece:
2. Games and sporting equipment
3. Fabrics, yarn, felt
Greece’s principal export destinations (2013):
Greece’s principal import sources (2013):
1. Russian Federation
source: Neos Kosmos