Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The food and beverage industry is a major contributor to Greece’s economy, and U.S. products hold high esteem.

The food and beverage industry is feeding economic growth in Greece, and Wisconsin’s innovative food and beverage producers may be able to take advantage of that.

Food and beverages make up one-third of Greece’s manufacturing revenue and 24% of total employment. Greece is the third-largest producer of olive oil in the world, and oils are among its most profitable sectors along with fruits and vegetables, fisheries, nuts, and canning.

There are more than 16,000 food businesses in Greece, many of them family-owned. The typical food and beverage company in Greece is relatively small, with $30 million in revenue and about 140 employees. That’s about half the size of similar companies throughout Europe, which report average revenue of more than $60 million and 200 employees.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Greece imports at least as much in food and beverage products as it exports, and it relies on imports to meet the demands of consumers.

In 2020, Greece imported $7.1 billion in agricultural products. Cheeses and meats were in highest demand, totaling $1.3 billion. Products with considerable interest also included cereals, sugar, alcoholic beverages, exotic seasonal fruits, seeds for planting, and non-GMO food ingredients for use in processing.

According to the Greek Institute of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA)the country’s economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have brought changes in the way Greeks eat. They are cooking at home more, and online grocery shopping has become popular. A survey showed that 25% of people in Greece now buy their groceries online.

They are also looking for foods with health benefits, such as vitamin D-fortified orange juice or yogurt drinks containing probiotics, the IELKA survey showed.

Greek importers are enthusiastic about working with U.S. food and beverage companies because of the high quality, innovation, and wide variety of American products, the Foreign Agricultural Service says. Eighty percent of Greece’s import trade is handled through sales agents or distributors.

Options for Wisconsin suppliers to meet potential partners in Greece include the Food Expo in Athens in March 2024 and the Horeca Trade Fair.