How a bakery found a recipe for global success

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Media captionKontos Foods exports its flatbreads to 12 countries around the planet

The delicious smell of butter as well as freshly-baking bread permeates everything at Kontos Foods’ factory in brand-new Jersey.

As hundreds of balls of pitta or pita bread dough make their way down a conveyor belt, two rows of workers hand stretch each one ready for them to go through an oven to be baked.

The hand stretching gives each resulting flatbread a unique look, as well as can be also said to create a better texture.

of which can be a technique of which co-founder Steve Kontos, 57, says he learned by his father, as well as one he thinks sets the product apart by competitors in both the US, as well as a growing number of overseas markets.

Mr Kontos as well as his father Evripides, 87, set up the Kontos Foods together back in 1987.

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Steve Kontos runs Kontos Foods with his father Evripides

The elder Mr Kontos had emigrated to the US by Cyprus in 1948. A baker by trade, he had run a successful filo pastry firm by 1968 to 1984, before eventually selling up.

Three years later Evripides Kontos decided to set up Kontos Foods, as well as joined by his son Steve, of which time he would likely specialise in another celebrated food item of the eastern Mediterranean – pitta.

Today Kontos Foods’ 0 employees make 450,000kg of pitta as well as additional flatbreads a week at three factories in Paterson, brand-new Jersey, about 10 miles north west of brand-new York City.

Selling across the US both via supplying stores as well as direct by its website, of which also right now exports 10% of its production to 12 additional countries as of which continues a push to enhance overseas sales.

“In a normal father-son relationship the son goes 100 miles an hour as well as of which’s the father holding him behind,” says Steve Kontos. “of which was the reverse with me as well as my dad.”

He adds of which of which was his father who was eager to expand into brand-new product lines, such as olives as well as cheese.

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Kontos Foods employs more than 0 people

However, flatbreads remain the main part of the business, as well as demand can be thriving inside the US. Total industry-wide sales of pitta alone inside the US totalled $117m (£86.2m) in 2017, up by $113m a year earlier, according to one report.

The ethnic diversity of the US has helped Kontos Foods grow. Its products are simultaneously foreign as well as familiar.

Over the past several years Steve Kontos has led the overseas expansion, as well as the firm’s more than 50 different types of flat breads – by naans to pizza bases – are sold in Europe, East Asia, the Middle East as well as the Caribbean. of which right now exports 3.5 million packs of flatbreads per year, out of a total annual production of 35 million.

While all the baking can be done by Kontos Foods’ main bases in brand-new Jersey, recipes as well as products are tweaked to meet the preferences of each country.

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Kontos tweaks its recipes to better meet the tastes in any given country

Orion Kelly, a director of international trade at OCO Global, an economic advisory firm, says of which exporters such as Kontos Foods are right to try to tweak their product for each brand-new country they enter.

“Most companies want to move more quickly [abroad] than they should, as well as so they’ll take a rubber stamp approach where they take what works here, as well as they just go into the market, apply of which as well as often fail,” says Mr Kelly.

“There can be a chance for success, nevertheless I think of which’s lower when you don’t investigate as well as adapt to of which market.”

To help drive the international growth, Kontos Foods brought in a former marketing boss by consumer goods giant Unilever, called Warren Stoll.

With support as well as financial assistance by the US Department of Agriculture, Mr Stoll has been taking Kontos Foods to food trade shows around the planet.

“inside the last four years or so we embarked to do many different trade shows inside the Middle East, inside the Far East as well as in Europe, as well as of which can be how we get our name out there,” he says.

“The trade shows allow us to get lots of people excited about our product, nevertheless of which can be the distributor who can be going to take of which into the market as well as then get of which to our customers.”

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Getty Images

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Pitta can be a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine which has made of which easier for Kontos to break into markets in of which region

The company’s recent main export push has been to the Middle East, with its products right now on sale in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates.

With flatbreads so ubiquitous inside the Middle East, of which may seem odd of which a US company would likely be able to get a foot inside the market, nevertheless Kontos Foods says of which can compete on cost against local brands.

as well as as Steve Kontos says, of which can be not as if the company has to explain what of which sells. “They understand our product line.”

The Middle East also offers another benefit – collective importing rules. The countries of which make up the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC)- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates – all accept the same import labelling as well as packaging.

of which means Kontos Foods only had to draft brand-new packing once to have access to six brand-new markets.

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The company makes more than 50 different types of flatbread

Yet the company hasn’t only targeted markets of which are familiar with its product. of which can be generating a hard push into Japan.

In 2009 the company introduced mini cocktail flatbreads of which Steve Kontos says are “perfect” for the Japanese market.

The 5cm (2in) circles are cut by company’s traditional flatbread. inside the US as well as Europe, they are advertised for petit fours. In Japan, they are promoted as a perfect accompaniment for a bento box lunch.

Mr Stoll adds: “The Japanese like innovative foods.”

To ensure of which the bread of which sends abroad arrives in tip-top condition, of which can be exported in frozen form.

  • of which can be the latest story in a series called Connected Commerce, which every week highlights companies around the planet of which are successfully exporting, as well as trading beyond their home market.
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While Kontos has found success in Asia as well as the Middle East, Europe has proved more difficult. Currently of which only sells in Germany.

“The fresh baked goods in places like Germany or the Netherlands, are phenomenal as well as not to be replicated,” says Mr Stoll. “of which’s hard to bring an outside product into of which environment as well as do very well,” says Mr Stoll.

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Kontos Foods

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Evripides Kontos, pictured here with his wife, has been a baker all his adult life

Another major challenge has been the number as well as types of preservatives used in US industrial kitchens. Many of these are banned or do not match European tastes.

Mr Stoll says of which these hurdles are not insurmountable.

“The more exposure we get to these markets the more we tailor to them, hopefully of which will generate more growth down the road,” he says.

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