Writing about a product that’s not readily available for the audience you largely write for seems to be a doron adoron—a gift that isn’t useful or can’t be used. One of the greatest challenges for young entrepreneurs and producers in Greece today is how to broaden the distribution of their innovative products within Greece and enter markets abroad. The difficulties involved in building this distribution network are particularly steep for a young company on its own.
For Greek food and beverage firms, the growing popularity of online groceries offers a solution. Getting your organic woodland honey or high-quality extra-virgin oil placed in delicatessens in Rome and Berlin, not to mention in ethnic food stores in smaller towns and cities, is daunting. Getting the same products placed in a successful e-deli is much easier. Strength in numbers.
And Yoleni is offering precisely that. According to Fortune Greek, the company is the largest online delicatessen in Greece, with over 1,200 products from 110 Greek producers and ships to the EU and the United States. As Kathimerini reports, 60% of Yoleni’s sales are delivered abroad.
Together the products in this e-deli make up a panorama of some of the best regional Greek foods on the market today, from Kozani saffron and Cretan snails to wild capers from the Cyclades and the intensely flavorful tomato paste from Santorini. They include familiar items, such as organic and extra-virgin olive oils, spoon sweets and ouzo and tsipouro, as well as more unfamiliar ones, such as pickled vine sprouts and Dirfis’ sheep butter with white truffles. I was pleased to discover that Yoleni carries some of the products featured in this blog: Velouitinos’ organic Thasos olives, Agreco Farm’s sun-dried cherry tomatoes, Trikalinos’ bottarga and lasagna chips from the Chiotiko Kellari.
Yoleni , which won a Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award in 2015, is more than an online deli. Or rather, it’s the way an online deli ought to operate. First, there’s a refreshing depth and breadth of information on the products. The items are accompanied by texts that give background on the producer and the region in which the item is cultivated and produced. Thus, for example, the visitor to the site will learn about the Sinoni brothers’ eel farm in Halkidiki, and Christos Stremmenos, a former Ambassador to Rome and professor of chemistry at Bologna who developed a Greek prosciutto, which he produces in the village of Proussos in the region of Evrytania. The site is indeed, as Yoleni claims in one of its well-made corporate videos, “a journey of delicious stories.” Product details go beyond ingredients to include ways to prepare or serve the food—quite useful for more esoteric items such as buffalo milk frumenty (trachanas). Many of the products are accompanied by a suggested recipe, some of which with video demonstration!
Overall the website is user-friendly, easy to navigate and supplemented with a good deal of on-line help (including videos) on ordering, product safety, returns, packaging and the like. Ordering is straightforward
A good number of filters are available to browse through the products, including the region in which the item is produced. Registering with the site, ordering, editing your basket and checking out conform to industry standards on e-commerce usability. On the downside, the site isn’t (yet) responsive and a few of the texts, including the Terms and Conditions, are set in a small, light italic font that is not very legible.
Yoleni works directly with producers and without the intervention of wholesalers and re-sellers, which the company claims enables them to keep their prices competitive. I did some—admittedly limited—comparison shopping with identical items in my local supermarket and wine shop and found that Yoleni’s prices (for the products I could locate) indeed are as good as or better than prices at mortar-and-brick delis in the city. Factoring in shipping costs, however, raises the unit cost. This is obviously not an issue for consumers outside the largest Greek cities, who can’t find these products in their home town markets. For those who can, it makes sense to buy in bulk. Orders over €70 for destinations within Greece are shipped free of charge (over €40 for the Athens metropolitan area).
Yoleni is clearly a firm that pays attention to details. It’s evident in the care taken in the selection of the quality products it carries and the functionality of the website, right down to the photographs of the products (which Yoleni does on its own, rather than relying on a producer’s press kit) and the packaging. The order is put together in a shrink-wrapped cardboard tray sandwiched in lays of protective bubble wrap and packaged in an attractive minimalist wrapping of recycled paper and natural twine. It makes for a great gift idea on its own, but the site also offers a variety of gift baskets packaged in homemade wooden crates or cachepots.