September 23, 2010
by Andrew Joseph, Features Editor
Sometimes, simply being the best in your chosen field is not enough. But it certainly wasn’t vanity or greed that prompted Laval, Que.-based restaurateur Arahova Souvlaki to dip its toes in the consumer
marketplace—just the fact that burgeoning local demand for the company’s mouthwatering range of tasty and flavorful Greek-cuisine dips and sauces grew way too big to be satisfied through the 15 family restaurants it operates in the Montreal area.
Once voted as the best souvlaki restaurant in Montreal in a local consumer survey, the family-owned Greek restaurant chain—founded in 1971 by company president Christos Kalogrias, and named after a picturesque village set in the foothills of Delphi in his native Greece—offers a compelling example of how paying attention to the little things can work true wonders for the big picture.
“While our menu consists of original Greek dishes such as tzatziki, taramosalata, skordalia, spankopita, pita specialties, gyros, kids menus, salads and, of course, our outstanding souvlaki, we have become quite renowned for our variety of Greek dipping sauces,” says Les Produits Arahova (Arahova Inc.) vice-president Tina Kalogrias, relating how this niche forte ultimately prompted the company to open up its own dedicated processing plant in Laval in 1993—not only to supply its restaurants, but also to spread around the joy of its all-natural dip creations in the local retail and foodservice markets.
“Our retail products have been highly successful for us—they contain no preservatives, have a great taste, and are created from a secret file of family recipes,” Kalogrias told Canadian Packaging in a recent interview, while singing praises of the Mediterranean diet as one of the healthiest around.
“We credit our success and ingenuity to our Greek family recipes and the fact that Arahova is always reinventing itself with new products based on those recipes,” she says, citing the recent launch of “light” versions
The company’s 8,000-square-foot processing and packaging Laval plant churns out nearly 10 tonnes of dip products per week, according to Kalogrias, with its signature ArahovA Tzatziki spread brand—packaged in bottles and plastic tubs—accounting for nearly 75 per cent of its retail business.
Other retail products produced at the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)-certified facility include tantalizing original creations such as Feta Cheese & Greek Olives; Taramosalata; Hot Feta Cheese; Roasted Pepper & Feta Cheese; Greek Spinach; Tzatziki Light and Greek Spinach Light, chicken souvlaki seasoning spices and hummus.
Because the competition in today’s retail marketplace is so fierce, Kalogrias acknowledges, Arahova has formed a partnership with a nearby third-party meat products copacker Expresco Foods Inc. of Mount-Royal, Que., to reproduce some of its signature restaurant dishes in retail-friendly packaged foods such as Arahova’s Moussaka Mediterranean Meat Pie, the 12-portion Kreatopita Filo Meat Pie, Spanokapita Spinach and Feta Filos and Triopita Feta Cheese & Filo, which are sold across Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick through Loblaws, IGA and Costco supermarkets, with Walmart expected to follow suit soon.
“There is also ‘combination packages’ of cuisine featuring a tzatziki dip produced at the Arahova facility, but packaged at Expresco with its souvlaki meat products,” notes Kalogrias, estimating that Expresco processes about five tonnes of pork per week specifically for the souvlaki sold at Arahova’s restaurants and through the retail stores.
According to Kalogrias, building up a solid presence in retail markets has naturally required the company to acquire a fair bit of knowledge and expertise about food packaging techniques and technologies, as well as make significant investments in related packaging machinery, equipment and supplies.