Greek cheeses are enjoying a resurgence in the UK

A London-based Greek entrepreneur that supplies foods such as Feta cheese and olives to most of the major supermarkets says the ongoing Greece crisis has ignited a taste for the country’s traditional foods.

Panos Manuelides, the founder of North London-based Odysea, said traditional Greek cheeses are enjoying a resurgence, despite problems in the country making it difficult for companies to export products.

He said that cheeses such as Kefalotyri, a cheese made with sheep and goat’s milk, are growing in popularity in the UK. He added consumers are also becoming more adventurous in their Greek food choices, buying products such as grape molasses, a non-fermented grape syrup that is used to sweeten foods.

“When Halloumi and hummus were introduced to the UK market in the late 1970s, most Greeks wouldn’t have known what they were. These aren’t traditional Greek foods. As people are becoming more familiar with our cuisine, they want more types of Greek cheese, such as Mastello and Kefalotyri,” he said.

Odysea, which was formed in 1991 and had a turnover of £12m last year, recently started supplying Kefalotyri cheese to Waitrose, and Mr Manuelides adds that restaurants are ordering higher quantities of Mastello cheese, as Greek food becomes more popular with casual diners.

A number of new Greek restaurants have opened in the past year, including The Greek Larder in central London; while chain The Real Greek has added a number of restaurants across the capital.

However, Mr Manuelides said the ongoing Greek crisis has left many Greece-based suppliers unable to ship their products to the UK. At the height of the crisis, they were not able to make payments abroad, damaging some relationships with international customers.

“Greece is still a hostile environment with which to do business,” he said. “It is the result of many years of bad policies and very bad organisation. There are not enough empty trucks going out of the country, which means small Greek businesses are struggling to ship their products out of the country. Freight prices will increase if things are not sorted out quickly.”