Being a country with similar diet and culinary habits to Greece, and a major agricultural country itself, Spain is not easy to penetrate. Nonetheless, good price, targeted advertising and small promotional actions towards middle and upper level Spanish consumers can be key for the success of Greek F&B products to the Spanish market. Mr. Pantelis Gassios First Counsellor for Economic & Commercial Affairs, Head of Economic & Commercial Affairs Office at the Greek Embassy in Madrid highlights for the readers of Ambrosia Magazine the importance of this big Mediterranean market, not only as a commercial destination in itself, but also as a gateway for Greek agrifood products to the Latin American markets.
Interview: Charitomeni Vonta
What would you say is the greatest asset of Greek F&B products in your market?
I would say that the greatest advantage of the Greek agrifood industry’s products in the Spanish market lays upon the fact that similarly to Greece, Spain is a Mediterranean country with a rich dietary culture quite close to the Greek gastronomic culture. The Mediterranean diet forms part of the everyday life of the Spanish population. As a result, the average Spanish consumer is fully aware of the taste and dietary features of a wide variety of Mediterranean food and beverage products, such olive oil, whose consumption in Spain is the second highest worldwide per capita consumption after Greece.
Of course, Spain is a very big agricultural country itself and is generally being viewed by the Greek agrifood exporters as a huge and direct competitor of the Greek agricultural products in the international markets. This is rather logical, however, the fact that the Spanish market is very open and efficiently organized presents significant opportunities to Greek agrifood exporters.
Moreover, the steady increase of the flows of incoming Spanish tourism to Greece over the past few years -with the exception of 2020- is a factor that is functioning in favor of Greek food and beverage products in the Spanish market, as the visitors from Spain get more and more familiarized with the Greek cuisine and its ingredients and tend to look for these products when they are back in Spain, even to embody the Greek ingredients in traditional Spanish plates, e.g. tapas.
Which Greek products have the greatest potential?
According to the most recent Greek statistical data the value of Greek exports to Spain in the year 2022 reached a historically high level, namely €2,1 billion, significantly increased by 75,7% compared to 2021. In 2022, Spain ranked 8th among the main destination markets for Greek exports, holding a share of 3,8% of the total Greek exports. A share of almost 22% of the total Greek exports to Spain in 2022 is held by food and beverage products.
I believe that a large variety of Greek agrifood products are able to penetrate the Spanish market, attract Spanish consumers and build a market share, because of their high quality and their rich natural characteristics, given the healthy lifestyle trend that exhibits an ongoing growth among the Spanish consumers. For instance, Greek kiwifruit has a significant share of the Spanish market (Greece being the fourth largest exporter to Spain) and, of course, the Greek fresh fish holds a 16,4% share of the Spanish market, holding the second place among Spain’s main international suppliers.
It is true that Spanish consumers generally prefer domestically produced food and beverage products. Therefore, the country’s imports are of specific types of food and beverage products, which are mainly channeled towards delicatessen stores and gourmet restaurants, addressing the needs of consumers who are looking for different and healthier qualities and varieties of products. In this context, the exports of Greek agrifood products should aim to penetrate and occupy “niche” segments of the domestic market, such as delicatessen products with a particular emphasis on organic products, as well as to cover gaps that may occur in the domestic production.
The highest priority for Greek agrifood exporters should be to maintain stability and consistency of their in order to maintain the overall positive image that the Greek agrifood products enjoy in the Spanish market. Moreover, Greek food and beverage products can take advantage of the recovery of consumption in the Spanish market with a particular emphasis on healthy nutrition, by offering products at an affordable price and at the same time by trying to boost their image among Spanish consumers, several of whom have tasted them by visiting our country.
How could Greek products’ dynamics improve?
Expanding the existing share of Greek food and beverage products in the Spanish market will require a greater, more coordinated and targeted effort on the part of Greek exporters, focusing on the products for which Greece is known and famous in Spain, at affordable prices, with the appropriate mix of quality and value and using the right distribution networks. Moreover, we point out that the rapid growth observed in the delicatessen and organic products retail sector should orient us to a systematic effort to increase our share of high-quality products, including organic. This growing market segment potentially presents significant opportunities for serious Greek producers – exporters of certified agricultural products, targeting the middle to upper income segment of the Spanish upper middle class.
In my opinion, agrifood products such as dairy / cheese, fish, fruit, meat / cold cuts, soft drinks / juices and alcoholic beverages -especially beer and some types of wine- present a great interest to Greek exporters in terms of development perspectives in the Spanish market. On top of that, there is a satisfactory degree of standardization of Greek products and production units especially in some of the above sectors that could attract Spanish investors.
Furthermore, concerning the perspectives of cooperation that exist in the supply chain, Greece can offer a combination of transportation and commercial hub services, through warehouses and distribution facilities to a number of countries, including Spain, that trade their products in the wider Balkan region and Eastern Europe.
Last but not least, Greek agrifood exporters have to always bear in mind the special connection that Spain has to the Latin American countries and their local food and beverage markets of F & B. Spain can be a gateway for Greek agrifood products to the Latin American markets.
Concerning Greek food exports to Spain in 2022, by analyzing the EL.STAT. data based on four-digit tariff codes, e can see that there have been significant increases in the values of:
- edible fish, fresh or chilled (HS 0302, increase by 15,9%)
- strawberries, raspberries & blueberries (HS 0810, concerns exports of Greek kiwifruit, increase by 33,7 %)
- olive oil and its fractions (HS 1509, explosive growth of over 1.000%)
- seeds and oilseeds (HS 1207, increase 1.500%)
- cheeses (HS 0406, increase 45,1%)
- other olive oils (HS 1510, increase 138,1%)
- prepared / preserved fruits (HS 2008, more than tenfold increase)
- goat and sheep meat (HS 0204, increase 0,8%).
As extremely important new developments in 2022 we consider the increase in the value of virgin olive oil (at €43,35 million), resulting in its entry into the ranking of the top categories of Greek exports to Spain, the also significant increase in exports of other olive oils (at €17,77 million), as well as oleaginous fruits and seeds (at €20,16 million) and preserved fruits (at €14,65 million). We have to check the stability of these exports over the coming years.
What is the biggest challenge for companies or brands who want to do business in your country?
We should certainly not overlook the fact that Spain is a large agricultural country in the European south, with huge domestic production and exports of agricultural products, the majority of which are directly competitive to Greek agricultural products in international markets. For instance, Spain is actually Europe’s largest exporter of fresh produce and among the top three globally, with Spain’s share of the total world trade in fresh fruit and vegetables representing approximately 12%. In Europe it is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables and represents 25% of the total European production.
For some regions in Spain, the cultivation and the subsequent processing for the production of agricultural products is of the highest economic importance, as large part of the population base their income on this product. The example of olive oil is valid for many other food and beverage products that are typical to the Mediterranean diet and enjoy high popularity among the population due their taste and nutritional characteristics that are connected to the Spanish food culture.
We point out that competition to enter the large retail chains in Spain is extremely high, as the price factor plays a particularly important role in order to place a product on a supermarket shelf. Appropriate mix of good price, targeted advertising and small promotional actions towards the Spanish consumer public will help Greek fresh products to consolidate and expand their position in the Spanish market.
Last but not least, Spain’s administrative organization, as well as the country’s high level of decentralization play a role in the organization of the country’s market, particularly in specific subsectors of products and services, among which several food and beverage products. This fact sets an obligation upon the foreign exporter to locate and cooperate with 2 or 3 different local representatives or distributors in Spain.
Please share with us some targeted actions taken to improve the position of Greek F&B products / to enhance exports to your market.
Our Office is providing useful background information and market insight to the Greek exporters. In this context, in 2022 we conducted market research on the fruit & vegetable sector in Spain, a sector study on the Spanish olive oil sector, as well as an information note on the kaki sector in Spain.
Moreover, our Office is providing organizational, networking and information support to Greek companies that are participating, often under a national pavilion umbrella, in the quite important and large food and beverage trade fairs in Spain. Among them, the global food industry exhibition Alimentaria in Barcelona (biennial, taking place in spring), the Fruit Attraction exhibition in Madrid (annual, taking place in October), Seafood Expo Global / Seafood Processing Global in Barcelona (annual, taking place in April), Salón Gourmets, Horeca Professional Expo-HIP, Organic Food / Eco Living Iberia (annual, taking place in Madrid).
Moreover, we support with our resources smaller promotion programs of the Greek agrifood sector, for example the promotion of Greek fresh agricultural products through the Mediterranean Combo program, as well as the promotion of the Greek gastronomy as part of the EU RICE program, or within the context of independent actions in cooperation with business organizations such as the bilateral Chambers of Commerce. We also occasionally promote Greek agricultural products like wine, especially through articles in the press, in cooperation with Greek business organizations.
In my opinion, new methods of approaching buyers-customers should be implemented and synergies should be created with Greek or international export and gastronomy promoters. Our goal must be to highlight those elements that differentiate Greek products from those of the competition, through a continuous monitoring of market trends, participation in trade events, repeated specialized presentations, generic promotion presentations for PDO and PGI products, organization of culinary events of high visibility, focusing our penetration efforts on the middle to higher income segment of the Spanish population.
Especially for the Spanish F&B market, the Greek agrifood sector must focus on the organization of targeted events at trade fairs with possible participation of foreign buyers, the organization of targeted gastronomy and wine tastings in collaboration with Greek Chefs and local importers of food and drinks, the organization of special actions for targeted guests with the aim of developing business networking and attracting Spanish investment in the Greek F&B sector.
Which are the best-selling Greek F&B products in your market
We hereunder present the top categories for Greek F&B exports to Spain in 2021 and 2022, based on EL.STAT data (four-digit tariff codes).
A traditionally top category for Greek food exports to Spain is fresh fish. Spain is the top second worldwide market for Greek fishery products after Italy. Over the past few years there has been a particularly strong tightening of relations between the large fish farming groups of the two countries, mainly as a result of the major reorganizations that occurred in the Greek fish farming sector. Moreover, there is a significant amount of bilateral investment flows in the field of fish farming. Another important category of Greek exports to Spain are crustaceans.
A very important category is the exports of Greek kiwifruit to Spain. Exports of Greek peaches and oranges have also been on the rise, although Spain is a top worldwide producer of peaches. On a broader context, we estimate that the Greek fresh agricultural products that have particular dynamics and remarkable prospects in the Spanish market are mainly kiwis, peaches, citrus fruits (to fill gaps in domestic demand), watermelons, grapes, plums and dried nuts.
Greek exports of olive oil and other types of edible oils to Spain usually fluctuate from one year to another, because they often complement shortages in the domestic production. The olive oil but also the preserved olives both consist categories of Greek exports to Spain that are quite important, however mainly coming to complement shortages that might arise in the domestic demand. A category exhibiting remarkably steady growth behavior is cheese, mainly the Greek feta that is widely available in all the Spanish big super market chains, alongside with the ever-growing presence of Greek yoghurt. Other products with a remarkable presence in the Spanish market in 2022 have been preserved fruits, fresh or frozen sheep / goat meat and various food preparations, as well as traditional Greek jams and marmalades.
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