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Friday, March 11, 2016

Cretan Herbs | Elements of commercial differentiation



Cretan herbs have many remarkable characteristics, which can drive them to a commercial success. In this analysis, we focus mostly on edible herbs.  We illustrate the most important of these characteristics.  

Diversity of species
There are about 300 edible plants in Crete. This great variety gives many options to the producers to develop a long product line and meet accurately their potential customers’ needs. 

Table 1. Ten mostly mentioned food wild plants


Diversity of usage
The variety of Cretan plants is followed by a great diversity of use. Every part of the plant can be used to develop a unique product that can meet specific needs. (In the brackets, see the number of species related to the specific use.)
  • Leafy greens, stems and inflorescences, raw, boiled, cooked or sautéd (122)
  • Roots, rhizomes and bulbs (10)
  • Fresh herbs (15)
  • Dried herbs for cooking (16)
  • Dried herbs for beverages (24)
  • Fruits, desserts-jams-pickles (18)
Processing 
The options in processing are almost unlimited. Depending on the plant and the processing method, we can produce edible or non-edible products. Again, the options of product development are vast, and could be expanded to several industries, such as food, beverage, medicine, pharmaceutical, cleaning and cosmetics.
  • The methods of processing 
  • For edible use: Soup / Brew / Juice / Solution / Powder / Fresh 
  • For non-edible use: Compress / Massage / Eyewash / Hand & foot wash 
  • General wash
Nutritional value
Healthy food is one of the most popular trends among consumers around the world. Cretan herbs offer an excellent variety of nutritional value, while some could be characterized as rare. The list below illustrates the different body system disorders as treated by the medicinal plants, while again in the brackets is mentioned the number of the related plants. An important observation of the study is the strong relation that seems to exist between food and medicinal plants, as half of the food plants were also considered important in traditional medicine.

  • Digestive system (44), 
  • Urinary system (43), 
  • Circulatory system (39), 
  • Respiratory system (38), 
  • Infection/infestations/injuries (36), 
  • Skin (34), Endocrine system (25), 
  • Mental/nervous system (15), 
  • Inflammation  (8), 
  • Pain (8), 
  • Muscular-skeletar system (6), 
  • Poisoning (6), 
  • Reproductive system (3).

Added value
Due to this amazing diversity of the mentioned characteristics, Cretan herbs offer many opportunities of added value and differentiation, maximizing profits.   Following is an interesting example of ultra-added value for a Chinese tea. 
Da Hong Pao 
This tea dates back as early as the 18th century. We are actually talking about the premium version of this tea - because there are a variety of options - but this one is the most expensive. The Chinese government sold this tea in 1998 in an auction to the highest bidder and received $900,000 for it. That comes out to around $1,250,000 per kilogram. This tea is more expensive than gold. 
A branded malotira (not a premium brand) in a local supermarket comes up to €95.5/kg, which is still a good deal.
The conclusion comes naturally. A well branded herb product offers attractive margins and seductive incomes. 

Culture
The cultural aspect is particularly important when it comes to food products. Connecting a food product with cultural elements can be an effective marketing tool to differentiate the brand in a high competitive and demanding market. 
On the other hand, it is important to be part of our culture. This is the best way not only to introduce the product to other cultures but also to suggest new uses or even new consumption habits.
Indeed, herbs are strongly adopted by Greek culture. We can mention the most popular uses of herbs in Greece. 
  • Medical treatment. Many herbs are used as natural medicine for stomach disorders, insomnia, cold treatment, and much more.
  • Social life. A cup of herbal tea is a typical hot drink when socializing. 
  • Mediterranean cuisine. Many herbs are important for some typical Mediterranean recipes. 
  • Religion. Sometimes we use specific herbs even as ritual accessories. The connection with the religion indicates the high degree of familiarity that Greeks have with these plants.

George Gkekas | Brand & Export Strategist


This paper was created by fooditerranean and presented at the 7th Planta Europa Conference (7PEC), in May 2014. Fooditerranean is the first brand & business development company in Greece which addresses exclusively small/medium/ agri-businesses. A crucial part of our job is to research, analyze the industry, and identify the potential opportunities before we start creating a brand or an export strategy. This is exactly what we did in this paper regarding the Cretan herbs. The purpose of this presentation was to underline the commercial value of Cretan herbs, point out the drawbacks, and outline a sustainable exploitation strategy. The research was carried out just a few weeks before the presentation, and it was based particularly on online sources, back up files of fooditerranean and empirical knowledge through professional projects. The structure of this paper consists of four main sections. We start with the current market presentations, following with the commercial characteristics of Cretan herbs, a SWOT analysis of the industry, and closing with recommendations, giving some strategic guidelines for future development. 

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