by Vicky Kaliakou

Nearly two thirds of Europeans say they eat fishery products at least once a week. According to the EWG 2019 Economic Report for the EU Fish Processing Sector, turnover for 2016 was €31,810 million for 3,630 companies with 132,964 employees. In 2017, 3,462 companies reported €32,413 million turnover (a 2% increase) and 130,664 employees.

With over 90 years of family business activity in Greece, KONVA SA (the company behind the brands “Trata” and “Flokos”) is one of the most advanced seafood processing industries in the European Union, specializing in sardines, anchovies and tuna.

KONVA’s official history dates back to1989 when the factory in Kilkis was established and began production, while the brands “Trata” and “Flokos” had already been presented to the Greek market since the early 1970s.

KONVA’s product family

Gianna Tzika, CEO of KONVA SA, explains: “KONVA as we know it today was founded in 1989, but the family has been in the business long before. We identify as a family business, and we operate as one. The 3rd generation working for KONVA shares the values and traditions set by the previous generations and follows the compass of honesty and quality. We love seafood, we love and respect the sea, we protect it, we can easily say that our heart beats in the sea!”

KONVA (the name stands for Cannery of Northern Aegean acronym in Greek) produces approximately 30 million cans per year and absorbs almost 50% of the annual fishery in Greece in sardines and anchovies. The company employs 227 people that are mainly based at the facilities in Kilkis. There are also offices in Athens and warehouses in Aspropyrgos.

Valuable but underestimated

KONVA produces a wide variety of products, such as canned goods that range between sardines, anchovies, tuna, squid, and octopus, among others, which account for the main line of production, as well as a series of frozen products, mainly sardines and anchovies. These two species of fish are usually underestimated; few people know that they have a high nutritional value, as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins (especially B12) and minerals. From 2000, the company has shown significant growth, exporting its “Trata” products to 20 European countries, as well as Asia and the US. When you ask Ms. Tzika about the company’s milestones, she answers: “it’s hard to pick the key ones. If I had to pick the top 5, those would be our facilities expansion in 2005, the smoked tuna presentation in 2010, the introduction of a robot machine in our production in 2013, joining Endeavor in 2017 and presenting the innovative ‘Track and Trace’ service in 2019. And as a bonus milestone I’d have to say our latest pocket products, a whole different and new product category produced by KONVA”.

KONVA’s factory in Kilkis

Tracing what you eat

Innovation along with eco-friendly policies are strategic goals for KONVA. “‘Track and Trace’ is one of the most important steps towards these goals and it is with great joy and pride that we created this service and gave free access to the world. It is a traceability service of our fish, which we created and implemented in collaboration with the company iKnowHow and the General Directory of Fishery in Greece. By entering the consumer can visit the section ‘Track and Trace’ and learn everything they need to know about the history of the fish they have chosen. Every package of sardine or Aegean anchovy has a code on it. When you type it in the ‘Track and Trace’ service, you immediately have access to information such as the fishing area of the fish, its name, the boat that fished it as well as the fishing method used. I would also like to point out that we exclusively buy our fish (sardines and anchovies) from the Greek fish markets,” Gianna Tzika notes. She adds that KONVA doesn’t want to burden and exhaust the sea and sea life during the fishing period and its priority is to support Aegean Sea’s sustainability and to strive for legality and legal fisheries, thus contributing to the international effort to promote better ocean and sea management. The company will soon launch a plant-based product. “This is especially close to our heart since it is on the top of our agenda to actively participate in environmental protection,” she says.

Pandemic sales boom

As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, many consumers turn to home cooking and try new long-term storage products. It is also very convenient to bring a home-made meal such as tuna salad to work for the lunch break.

KONVA’s offices in Athens

In 2020 KONVA’s sales increased by 11% reaching €32,29 million from 29,06 in 2019. The restrictive measures though were difficult to implement at the beginning. “The Covid-19 pandemic was a challenging period for all of us. Working through the pandemic meant we had to quickly adapt and make sure that it was first and foremost safe for our employees, healthwise, to keep coming in for work. We implemented all the safety measures proposed and arranged PCR testing for anyone that asked for it. Business wise, the Covid-19 pandemic helped us increase sales and reach out to new customers. It was our chance, since people were staying home, for more people to try our products and win them over. We saw our tuna and tuna salad market share rise by 4-7%. The challenge now is to keep those numbers by introducing new products that fit the nutritional and taste needs of our customers,” Gianna Tzika tells GBF.

She gets enthusiastic when you ask her what makes her proud of KONVA.

I’m proud of many things! It makes me proud that throughout the years –through economic crisis, capital controls, shortage of fishery– the quality of our products never changed. We stayed focused and we made sure that we would not change anything in our recipes that might hinder our product quality. I am proud of keeping the family business culture within the company. There is an open-door policy in our offices, I visit the production area daily to see and discuss production matters. It is not always easy, and surely mistakes are made, but I can certainly say that we have an open communication with all our employees. Lastly, I am proud that we never rest on our successful traditional products but always strive to bring innovative ideas about new products or services. We want to evolve and to keep creating products that will be genuinely enjoyed by our customers. People invite us into their homes and onto their family table and we deeply respect that,” Ms. Tzika concludes.

This article is published in the November/December 2021 of Greek Business File,  available here.