Interview with Stelios Elinas of www.GourmetGroceries.com
I visited gourmetgroceries.com head office in Nicosia to meet the owner Stelios Elinas for an interview. He has managed to build a thriving online business selling high phenolic olive oils and high end Greek honey. He ships it from Cyprus aprund the world at affordable prices and high quality. I have been following his success story and I think it’s time the world got to know this Cypriot entrepreneur. Recently he won the Aristoleo Award for excellence for being the best online high phenolic EVOO retailer. Here is his amazing story.
Athan: I know your family is in the tile and marble business, what made you get into selling high phenolic olive oil?
Stelios: That business is what I was born into. My father started the business in 1969. From a young age we used to work at the factory we were supposed to do it for the rest of our lives. I still do and I like, but sometime in 2010 even before during my trips in Italy and Spain for the family business I saw some very beautifully bottled olive oils and traditional goods. And I had the desire to do something similar in Cyprus.
After the crisis of 2013 where the business was having a hard time it was a good opportunity to make the plan B into reality we did our research we saw that Greece and Cyprus is getting better they had good products and nicely packaged, immigrants were returning and investing in natural products. In 2015 with the help of the Zorbas family we started with olive oil jams,from Greece
Athan: So Zorbas family is the one that owns the bakery shops in Cyprus?
Stelios: Yes they have 65 shops here. Their main shops are in the high end areas and we started there. I used to do everything then. I would get up at 6am and go to Zorbas to restock the products and talk with customers and then I would come to work at the tiles and marble.
Athan: So it was an evolution
Stelios: It was a good way to start because you get to meet your customers and give them the right information and train the staff and also have tastings so people can get to know the products. Then I began receiving requests for corporate gifts something more healthy more unusual. So that was a big part of the business as well.
Athan: Did you have the olive oils as well back then?
Stelios: Yes we had mostly Mani Blauel brand organic, and then I remember the first food show in Athens I got to meet the Dafnis boys and tasted The Governor olive oil. So this was their beginning as well they were very excited and I could see that was the future.
Athan: So that was your first introduction to high phenolic olive oil?
Stelios: Yes that was the first time I got to know about it. But I could see this was the future of olive oil. I learned about the health claim. It was a good opportunity to start with the Dafnis Family because they were also the pioneers in this sector and we grew together.
Then we started to add more high phenolic olive oils for corporate gifts because we saw these olive oils had a future. We invested and promoted them because of this reason.
Then the second high phenolic I chose was the Drop of Life Limited after seeing it on Aristoleo Awards. Then we saw it was gaining acceptance and the next one was the Atsas Olive oil which is from right here in Cyprus and it made me happy to have a local high phenolic olive oil as well.
We received a lot of good feedback from people with serious conditions like arthritis, alzheimers, heart conditions and many studies that support this feedback began to appear in the media. Because we can ship anywhere in the world this makes the Greek and Cypriot olive oils accessible to an international market. We are always looking for new producers who are small and we would like to support them and help them grow.
We would like to keep the prices low and receive less profits.
Athan: How many producers do you carry?
Stelios: We carry 27 producers right now.
Athan: 27 olive oil producers?
Stelios: No all together we carry also many different types of honey. It is good we have you and Aristoleo to analyze and award these olive oils and olives for their phenolic content. I see that Aristoleo in working with Magiatis and Eleni Melliou to develop tests to compare the quality of these olive oils.
I would even like to see some random testing of these high phenolic olive oils on the shelf. It would give more confidence to the customers and also for me to know exactly what I am selling. This would help if we work together to make sure the quality is maintained. When a new product comes out and is successful we are going to see scams and people taking advantage to make money.
That is why before we put a new product on the list we like to talk to you and your company to because you know them better. It is helpful to have your feedback.
We want to make sure as possible our clients are going to get the best product.
Athan: The way of the future is online sales. In stores they have to be properly stored and displayed. The only problem is the transportation costs. But I see you have very low courier costs.
Stelios: Yes we get good rates because of the volume we do. Also we like to encourage our clients to but larger number to save on shipping and get a lower price on the product making it more affordable. We encourage our customers to stock up for summer so they do not order during the hot summer months. Temperature affects the olive oil as it gets very hot in Cyprus and Greece as well.
Athan: is it catching on?
Stelios: Yes they see the price difference in transportation and lower prices per item.
Athan: Congratulations once agian on winning the Aristoleo Award for excellence. It is well deserved for the hard work you are doing and the time and effort you are investing in promoting high phenolic olive oils.