Interview with Eleni Nikolopoulou, Nikolopoulou Foods, Greece

Interview with Eleni Nikolopoulou, Nikolopoulou Foods, Greece


The food sector is an important sector of the economy of Greece. Greece is regarded as a high-quality food producer with Mediterranean cuisine which is famous and celebrated all around the world. To start the interview, how would you assess the potential of the food industry in Greece and what are some of its strengths and weaknesses?

Greece is a country with a rich flora. Its agricultural products have a historic course and its participation in the Mediterranean Diet, which is globally recognized for its contribution to the good health of the human body, is crucial.

The food industry, and particularly the processing of agricultural products, is not as developed in Greece as it should be, because there are no suitable infrastructures that will add value to primary products and increase economic benefits.

Greek agricultural products are one of the country´s most important export industries, renowned and recognized for their quality due to the unique varieties available, the excellent soil condition and the sun which allows vitamins and trace elements beneficial for the body to remain in the fruits.

In the past, we had strong export products such as tobacco, cotton and Corinthian raisins, which were the national products of the country and accounted for 30% of national exports. These are no longer grown, however, due to the G.A.P. We hope that agricultural products will soon increase their share of GDP growth, and to that end we are taking steps that include redesigning, with the guidance and assistance of the state.

A new approach must be taken to the agricultural sector, which is part of the backbone of the national economy. This redesign and new approach will require problem analysis, the creation of research-innovation centers in collaboration with universities, the introduction, application and integration of new technologies and incentives for young farmers. These farmers will at the same time have to become farmer-entrepreneurs, to undertake themselves or in a group to process their products and package them according to the modern demands of the consumers.


For close to three decades, you have driven and grown Nikolopoulou Foods into one of the premier agri-food producers and distributors in Greece, and your range of products have set the benchmark for both its production excellence and quality delivery to consumers. Can you provide an overview of where the company finds itself today, what some of the hallmark moments for you have been and what you think the secret to your success has been?

I grew up in a farming family, loving the land, its plants and its fruits and they became an integral part of my journey. In 1989 I decided to engage professionally in plant-based nutrition, to add value to agricultural products that were devalued despite their increased nutritional value, such as legumes, cabbage, leek, and zucchinis, and to revive traditional Greek and ethnic recipes with new innovative practices.

Nikolopoulou foods is a processor of agricultural products to final frozen products and the Queen of plant-based nutrition in Greece. As we say, we cultivate plant habits, holding 35% market share of the market of frozen plant-based preparations.

As a company, we follow the philosophy of “From Farm to Plate”. We cooperate with Greek certified producers. We use DPO raw materials and process them with simple mechanical means, creating new products with a mixture of basic natural materials, fragrances and spices. Due to the simple processing techniques, these retain their organoleptic characteristics, odor, taste, texture, color and nutritional content, ensuring even the initial health claims of the ingredients. We strictly and carefully adhere to the processing chain; field, collection, transport, reception and careful management, through to the preparation and freezing the finished products. The company culture is to create products of high quality based on Greek raw materials that are beneficial to the human body.


Can you give our readers sone facts and figures about your company in terms of employees, turnover, exports as well?

Nikolopoulou Foods currently employs a total of 55 people. Our expected annual turnover for the financial year 2024 is expected to reach 9 million euros. It is worth noting that our company has had a significant growth rate in recent years. Exports currently account for 10% of our annual turnover, with sales coming from both European countries and other countries, such as the USA. However, with the necessary know-how and resources that we have obtained, we are actively investing in our export division to enhance our outreach. This effort is part of our five-year expansion plan.



Are you looking to do partnerships with distributors or other brands?

 Our alignment with the vegan and vegetarian diet and our association with the Mediterranean diet has gathered strong interest from foreign companies in the marketing and distribution of our products. The company, which operates with high standard systems in the areas of Production, Marketing and Sales, is a small/medium-sized organization with strong financial foundations, stable financial performance and very good EBITDA, attracting strong investment interest.


What are some of your flagship products, and some of your best-selling products today? How are you working on expanding your product range also? 

The spring rolls is our king and is the product with which the company has been identified in the Greek market, holding 95% market share. It is the first product that we produced in 1989, then unknown in the Greek market, with the Cantonese recipe and adapted to Greek tastes. Then we have falafels made only with Greek chickpeas, an equally popular product, which holds about 75% market share.

Our range contains various fruit and vegetable products, eggplant, zucchinis, tomatoes, potatoes and a variety of Greek vegetables and herbs as well as plant-based products. Despite competition from reputable Greek and multinational companies, in recent years we have been among the top two brands in terms of retail sales in the Greek market.


In terms of research and innovation, how are you working on developing new products? What sort of areas are you looking into?

The philosophical foundations of our approach to plant nutrition are based on the ancient Greek Philosophers, especially the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, from 600 BC. He was the first known vegetarian to live in harmony with nature. He ate meat only on festivals and established the Pythagorean diet.

The company has a remarkable R&D department that researches, studies, discovers and designs products with human health in mind. We collaborate with research centres, the Harokopio University and distinguished technologists and nutritionists.

Our first cooperation and project contract with the Harokopio University involved the design and development of innovative vegan products with high nutritional value based on legumes, cereals and pseudocereals through the process of extrusion. To this end we worked with experienced academics like Mr. Vaios Karathanos and his team.

A second project contract was signed with the Harokopio University for the exploitation of the black Corinthian raisin and the production of sweeteners and other preparations. Corinthian raisin is the black gold of Greece, which unfortunately is not highlighted as it should be.


Sustainability & ESG

As a company we support the circular economy. We have an environmental management system that is observed as faithfully as possible and is oriented to the recovery of a new product from the residues of organic matter during the production process. We are actively involved in the Save Food initiative, aiming at reducing food waste by promoting food management practices from production to consumption.

We invest in plant-based foods with high nutritional value and health claims, participate in actions against climate change and strive to protect the environment. We strictly uphold our commitments to employees by implementing excellent working conditions based on well-being in the workplace. We also participate in the problems of vulnerable groups with sensitivity and intense social work.


You have been growing Nikolopoulou Foods for 35 years. We live in a fast-changing period and with this plant-based trend you are spot on now with a nice future in front of you. How do you see the next 5-10 years in your company and in the expansion?

Over the next 5-10 years, we see Nikolopoulou Foods grow and rank among the leading producers of plant-based foods in Greece. We aim to expand our market share in Greece, Europe and beyond. Our goal is to continue the innovation by creating vegetable products that are tasty and nutritious and that people love and want to consume. We also want to continue to work with partners and distributors to expand our influence and make our products available to more people around the world.

As a leader, my vision for Nikolopoulou Foods goes beyond the pursuit of numerical results. I am strongly focused on promoting a collaborative organization where our goals are achieved through self-motivated and dedicated employees. Investing in the well-being of our team, both physically and mentally, is of paramount importance to me. I believe that our overall health is not only a measure of our success, but also our strongest competitive advantage.

At Nikolopoulou Foods, we recognize the importance of cultivating a supportive working environment. We emphasize teamwork and solidarity. Every member, at all levels of the company, has the opportunity to reach his personal and professional goals. By fostering the spirit of collaboration and encouraging personal development, we aim to be a workplace where individuals thrive and realize their full potential.

In conclusion, my vision is not just about profit margins or market share. It is about cultivating a working environment where employees can truly flourish and where our collective impact transcends the walls of our company, making a positive contribution to our industry, our community and our society as a whole.


What would be your final message to the readers of USA Today?

We look forward to welcoming more visitors to Greece to taste our recipes, get to know the ancient Greek philosophy and discover for themselves the old Greek culture. We want to invite them to experience Greek hospitality, taste Greek products and visit our favorite islands and many other beautiful places, under the Greek sun.