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Monday, February 19, 2018

Exporting pita bread to the countries of the Middle East

Por sumily

To help boost international growth, Kontos Foods hired Warren Stoll, a former marketing chief at Unilever, one of the largest consumer goods companies.With the support and financial assistance of the United States Department of Agriculture, Stoll has been taking Kontos Foods to trade shows around the world. The pita is a staple food in the Middle East, which has made it easier for Kontos Foods to enter that region. Recent export efforts have been concentrated there, managing to place their products for sale in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Given the ubiquity of unleavened bread in the Middle East, it might seem strange that a US company is able to enter that market, but Kontos Foods says it can compete on prices with local brands.

While hundreds of pita balls or pita dough move along a conveyor belt, two rows of workers manually stretch each one to prepare them before they enter the oven. This manipulation gives each of these loaves a unique appearance and is said to give them a better texture. It's a technique that business co-founder Steve Kontos, 57, says he learned from his father and thanks to which his product differs from its competitors both in the United States and in the growing number of international markets to which export Kontos' father, Euripides, emigrated to the United States in 1948, from Cyprus.

Being a baker by trade, he was at the head of a successful company dedicated to producing sharp dough from 1968 until he sold it in 1984. Three years later he decided to create Kontos Foods, together with his son Steve, this time to create another specialty of Middle Eastern food: pita. Today, the company's 200 employees produce 450,000 kilos of pita and other unleavened bread every week in three factories in Paterson, New Jersey. The products are sold throughout the country through distributors or through direct sales through the web. They also export 10% of their production to another 12 countries, for now.

He says his father was eager to expand the business, creating new lines of products, such as olives and cheese. Unleavened bread, however, continued to be the heart of the company and its demand is growing in the United States. In that country, the sales of the whole industry dedicated to pita bread totaled US $ 117 million in 2017, an increase of US $ 4 million in relation to the previous year.

The ethnic diversity of the United States has helped Kontos Food grow. Their products are, at the same time, foreigners and relatives. For the past five years, Steve Kontos has led the international expansion, thanks to which they sell more than fifty types of unleavened bread - from naan to pizza bases - in Europe, East Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Each year they export 3.5 million packages of unleavened bread, out of a total production of 35 million. Although the entire baking process takes place at the Kontos Foods facilities in New Jersey, the recipes and products are adjusted to meet the preferences of consumers in each country. Orion Kelly, director of international trade of OCO Global, a consulting company, assures that exporters like Kontos Foods succeed when trying to adjust the particularities of their products to each new market in which they want to enter.