Greek Travel after the Pandemic, Part 7: Panos Kloutsiniotis, Ladolea Olive Oil

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected Greek tourism, and what are local tourism providers doing to recover from it? This series of exclusive interviews with specific Greek tourism entities gets to the heart of the key issues, as of mid-summer 2020.

By Chris Deliso

August 14, 2020

Olive oil is one of the most iconic and internationally recognized natural products associated with Greece among the global public. When Greek brothers Panos and Thanos Kloutsiniotis sought to realize their vision for production of the highest quality olive oil under the label Ladolea, they could not have anticipated that a global pandemic would someday challenge their domestic sales, due to the sharp decline in tourist numbers to Greece in 2020.

Thus, while not a tourism entity in and of itself, Ladolea has been affected too by the 2020 crisis- as this interview with Panos Kloutsiniotis reveals. In it, we learn more about the brothers’ philosophy behind Ladolea olive oil, its production, and the challenges that they have overcome during the crisis.

Despite the challenges, however, the Athens-based company continues to succeed due to the inherent quality of its core products, which are synonymous with Greece and the country’s culinary, cultural and historic identity worldwide.

Some Preliminary Details: Food Science and Health Benefits of Ladolea Olive Oils

The attractively-presented Ladolea website contains key information regarding not only the individual varieties of olive oil for sale, but also the scientific findings on the health benefits of the company’s oils.

Indeed, according to the website, Ladolea’s Megaritiki variety Extra Virgin Olive Oil “has been analyzed by Dr. Prokopios Magiatis and Dr. Eleni Meliou at the faculty of Pharmacy in the National Kapodistrian University of Athens and is certified that (it) provides the ‘superior’ 989 mg / Kg (> 250 mg/Kg) of hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, or their derivatives.”

Olive oil in general is considered a food rich in anti-oxidants. But Ladolea’s Megaritiki is “the most antioxidant olive oil of this variety produced in Greece,” the website continues, and one of the most anti-oxidant-rich olive oils in the world.

Tests have also revealed that Ladolea’s oils contain much higher than average levels of “oleocanthal and oleacin, which present important biological activity,” and which “have been related with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardioprotective and neuroprotective activity.”

As the Coronavirus scare of 2020 has put an unprecedented new focus on human health, these beneficial aspects of olive oil are being noted by more and more people, wherever they may be in the world, who seek to implement the Greek diet to whatever extent possible. As such, while the crisis has been a challenge for Ladolea as much as for most other Greek companies, it does have a silver lining – in shining a light on health- and diet-related life choices – that are already turning out to be good for business, and will only continue to be so in years to come.

Provenance and Production: from Field to Finished Product

From Lesvos to Crete to Attica, Greece has many renowned regions for olive cultivation. The Ladolea company is for now working with farmers who live in one of the most famous areas- Corinthia, in the northern Peloponnese.

“At the moment we are collaborating with a team of 15 farmers in the area of Corinth,” says Panos Kloutsiniotis. “Every year we add more people in our team.”

The brothers’ vision for high-quality olive oil, respect for the environment, and best practices in health sometimes made it a challenge to get farmers to change their old ways- but change they have.

“As we are collaborating with people of tradition, in the beginning it was difficult to convince them about any change,” attests Kloutsiniotis. “However year by year and by offering a better price for a better quality product, they are happy to implement these changes.”

The innovations and incentives made by the Ladolea team included, but were not simply reserved to less pesticides and better prices. There was a whole vision for the supply-chain of the olives and oil in its production stages that needed to be implemented to guarantee quality control.

“We tried to change many things so that we could produce a high quality olive oil,” adds Kloutsiniotis. Along with the use of “less intense pesticides,” measures have included “transportation in less than 24 hours to the mill in crates, not in closed plastic bags.”

Furthermore, he adds, “we changed many things in the milling process, such as the amount of water used, the time of each process and most importantly, the temperature of the whole procedure- it is being kept under 27 degrees Celsius, so that we have a cold extracted extra virgin olive oil which keeps most of the aromas and nutrition value intact.”

Looking Out for the Trees

As readers learned in the fifth part of this series, even before the COVID-19 crisis, climate issues in west Crete in 2019 caused huge losses for the olive oil industry there. Fortunately, the same ill effects have not been suffered by Ladolea’s farmers. But Panos Kloutsiniotis underscores that the company is taking a vigilant approach.

“In the region of Corinthia, such a loss has not occurred,” he confirms. “However since we are speaking of a natural product, we are always under the control of nature and we are never sure about the quality until we taste the final product.”

Therefore, he concludes, “the only way is to respect nature’s rhythm and to try to help the trees as much as we can to be ready for every year’s circumstances.”

The Pandemic’s Effect on Sales: an Interesting Change in the Spread as Tourism Diminished in 2020

Ladolea, like all Greek olive oil producers, has seen sales affected this year as both domestic markets tighten their spending and incoming tourist numbers remain well below average.

Ironically, the company’s efforts to produce a premium olive oil that satisfied taste and scientific quality levels made it more susceptible to the tourism downturn, especially as the usually packed trendy tourist areas of Athens saw significantly reduced visitors this year.

In a normal year, “our sales are around 50% exported and 50% sold on the Greek high-end retail tourism market,” the Ladolea co-founder says. However, “this year, due to the COVID situation, we are seeing 40% less in sales, mostly from the Greek tourism market.”

Interestingly, Kloutsiniotis reveals that “we did not expect such a loss” due to the sudden decline in incoming tourism, one that if predicted could have allowed the company to make “a different strategy.” However, he adds, “we are totally aware that things are so insecure and at the moment we are trying to increase our exports and not rely on the Greek tourism market.”

Indeed, the company was not mortally wounded by the crisis. “The biggest problem that occurred was the lower sales and the logistics.” The company’s team is confident that it will continue to succeed in the wake of the pandemic, because of the underlying quality of their core products.

“Our plans are to focus on overcoming the losses of this year,” he says, “and from next year, to enter the exports on the US market.”

Olive Oil and Related Aspects of Greek Culture: a Possibility for Tourism Promotion?

One of Ladolea’s clever concepts for bolstering sales is the inclusion of other items that complement olive oil itself- souvenirs which have both a functional use-value and a culture reference to Greek history.

Chief among these is the ceramic pot connected with the ancient Olympics. Working with local ceramics artisans, the company manufactures and sells a reproduction of the Aryballos– an ancient Corinthian pot dated to 700 B.C. Ancient Olympic athletes were known to slather their bodies in olive oil from pots like this before the games, while ancient Greek aristocrats kept their valuables in them. Now, Ladolea considers its Aryballos pot a perfect (and environmentally-friendly, in being reusable) receptacle for its olive oil.

The proliferation of such heritage-related items can have an indirect benefit for Greek future tourism, Panos Kloutsiniotis believes.

“Our vision is to produce Greek authentic products,” he says, “by combining the tradition and history of our country with innovative and quality production methods.”

Kloutsiniotis underscores that Ladolea’s vision is to maintain the national-product identity of their goods, and that the company derives great satisfaction from seeing its customers make the connection with Greece through their products.

“We are so happy to see our consumers happy with our products,” he says, “especially when they offer them as Greek gifts.”

During the oftentimes dismal down-year of 2020, when the traditional tourism industry has been sunk by travel restrictions and media-generated travel panic internationally, both government and private enterprise have tried unique approaches to keep any kind of connection going between outside customers/tourists and Greece.

While the government’s ‘Greece From Home’ marketing is well known, Ladolea has a less-known but also relevant innovation in mind for keeping international interest alive.

“As for capitalizing on this, we are also thinking of a new internet shop, so that we could have direct sales after advertising,” reveals Panos Kloutsiniotis.

Further, the more traditional tastings will have to continue, as conditions allow. “Gastronomy was always a big thing in our daily life,” he adds, “and it is also a big attraction for the tourists. So apart from the historical attraction of our country it is very important to make targeted gastronomical moves such as tastings and exhibitions of high quality Greek products, so that we can attract this kind of gastronomical tourism as well.” 

Hunting for Ladolea- 4 Places To Find It in Athens Right Now

Finally, and of most importance to any olive-oil devotee happening to be in Greece this year, is the question of where Ladolea products are available currently in the country.

In some cases, it may find you, the company co-founder says. “You may find Ladolea in many stores, restaurants and boutique hotels in Greece.”

More specifically, he says, the prized olive oil can be found at certain central Athens specialty foods shops. “If I mention some of them: Nora’s Deli (Kolonaki area); Fotinis’s Deli (Plaka area); Yoleni’s (Kolonaki area), and the 4 Seasons (Syntagma Square).

Return to page Greek Travel after the Pandemic: Seizing Opportunities in Challenging Times