Photo by Aglaia Kremezi
By a very strange coincidence, our yogurt man was Mr. Filippou, the grandfather (or the great uncle) of the present owners of FAGE , the company that has extended its yogurt business all over the world. From their little workshop in Patissia the family created the first yogurt factory in Athens. The name of the company--now one of the largest food businesses in Greece--is pronounced FAH-yeh, an acronym from Filippou Adelfoi Galaktokomikes Epicheriseis (the Filippou Brothers Dairy Company), a word that felicitously means "eat!" in Greek.
While working as an editor for a short-lived Greek news magazine in the late 80s, I interviewed Ioannis Filippou, one of the two brothers--the sons of our yogurt man--who created the yogurt empire. He told me that their biggest challenge was to convince people to exchange traditional parchment-paper-covered yogurt, with the thick skin on top, for homogenized sealed cups with a longer shelf life.
They decided to introduce it on a Saturday afternoon, as people rushed to finish their shopping and go home. Grocery stores closed early on Saturdays and people usually bought their essentials at corner delis that sold fresh milk, coffee, ice cream, candies, cigarettes, newspapers, and magazines. Vendors were instructed to place the yogurt cup in a brown paper bag, so consumers would not detect the difference before reaching home; cleverly, Mr. Filippou doubted that the consumer would return to exchange the "new" product. "Once they tasted it, I was sure they would ask for it the next time," he told me.