The Marigold Plants SA company is situated in Greece, near Athens at Kato Souli, in the historical tomb at Marathon. Marigold Plants SA supplies big European supermarket chains with a wide range of Greek herbs. AgroTypos visited the family company of aromatic and ornamental plants and met the young (31 years old) Business Director of Marigold Plants, the agronomist Mr. Kriton Kitantzis. Mr. Kitantzis, a person with studies abroad and entrepreneur, has managed to become virtually the only Greek exporter of potted herbs in the European market. Big supermarket chains such as Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, the OBI in Germany, the B & Q in Britain and ALDI in Holland and Belgium are included in its partners. In Greece, the company cooperates with Leroy Merlin, Sklavenitis supermarkets and many Garden Centers. The facilities of the company reach 25 hectares of arable land of which 6 hectares greenhouses and 19 hectares open field. The annual output reaches 300,000 pots (17 cm) per year and 500,000 pieces of smaller pots. The characteristic of the rapid development of the company, even in a difficult economic period, is the fact that in 2003 the annual production was no more than 20,000 pots per year, and now exceeds the 800,000.
Aromatic plants in pots
“The Marigold Plants SA was founded by my father Lefteris Kitatzis in 2006 who is an agronomist of 3rd generation and I am of 4th generation. My father has been dealing with the cultivation and the export of floricultural products in pot since 1958, while now our company is focused more on exports. In the past we produced herbs cuttings for sale in other producers, but now we have stopped and we produce only for us (vertically integrated production)”, tells us Mr. Kriton Kitantzis. He adds: “the products we sell in supermarkets both in our country and abroad (we try to keep the export percentage of our turnover between 50 and 60%) is only in pots so the consumer except that he could plant them in his garden he also could have them in his kitchen, as they are certified. The production of aromatic plants directly on the ground for “cutting” is a completely different work and we do not deal with.”
A big part of the success of the business family Kitantzis is based on the fact that it has managed to certify its products and to respond to all controls and standards set by foreign customers. “The controls are set from specific laboratories abroad designated by the final customer. Nevertheless, controls have not only to do with laboratory analyzes but also with the company operation, our solvency, the way we work and we interact with our foreign customers, “tells as the commercial director of the company.
Small share of Greek aromatic plants in the international market
According to Mr. Kitantzis “unfortunately the share of Greek aromatic plants in the European market is too small, whereas Greece is a country with a wide range of herb production. When people of our sector talk about promotion of Greek herbs mean via Marigold Plants since there is no other exporting potted herbs. For example, in the area of Albenga in northwest Italy there are around 1,500 producers of herbs, while in Marathon only 20” stressed the agronomist and producer from Marathon.
The best-selling herbs
Which are the most demanded herbs in Greece and abroad? According to Mr. Kitantzis: “The herb of greatest demand both in Greece and abroad is rosemary followed by thyme. The mint shows higher demand in Greece than in abroad. ”
Prices, payments and cost of crop production
One of the raised issues for discussion during our visit to Marathon was that of the commercial part. That is the prices that the Marigold Plants sells its products in Greece and abroad, as well as what is the formed situation with the payments. “In Greece it is very difficult to be paid within 30 days, while abroad 30 days is the maximum period we expect to be paid. Apparently we got better prices when we sell abroad, but in practice things are different because the requirements for selling abroad are much higher, “says Mr. Kitantzis. And he adds: “For a 17 cm diameter pot the price abroad varies from € 1 to 1.20 while in the Greek market is less than € 1 (price can even reach € 0,65 a piece). For a certified potted herb according to the international standards the cultivation cost is about € 0,85-0,90. ”
Processing orders from abroad
Mr. Kitantzis also reported the way he schedules the production volume based on the abroad demands. “There are some traders who make their orders for the upcoming season very early, in some cases, however, we should take a risk. Three – four years ago, oders were made early in August – September for the next year’s spring. Now, due to the market’s uncertainty, orders for plants that will be sold in March are made in November – January. This means that if the producer waits to get the order to cultivate there is no way to make it. So we have to take risk.
Referring to the brand name Mr. Kitantzis mentioned that in the case of aromatic plants there is no need to have a brand of a company (beyond the fact that this is not allowed by foreign supermarket chains). In particular, in AgroTypos question whether Marigold products being sold in supermarkets bear the company’s name, Mr. Kitantzis states: “We are not allowed to have our name on the potted plants we sell abroad, but there is no benefit to promote Marigold Plant. What matters is to promote the product. That’s why all companies create a rudimentary brand name only for the product and not for the company.”
Marigold Plants SA at a glance
- In 1981 Mr. Lefteris Kitantzis, a 3rd generation agronomist, created a flourishing company that produced and exported indoor and outdoor plants.
- In 2006 Marigold Plants SA was founded to expand its line of activities and to establish in Greece a combination of production and plant trade at the items that floriculture uses in general.
- The company extends its activities, in order to cover a wider spectrum, which postulated an important increase in manpower, fields and expertise. Alongside Mr. Lefteris Kitantzis is the 4th generation of agronomists, since 2007, his eldest son Mr. Kriton Kitantzis agronomist MSc and since 2010, his youngest son Mr. Phaidon Kitantzis also agronomist and marketing MSc.
- The Marigold Plants SA is the one and only company in Greece that has been certified by the Dutch firm MPS – ECAS for all of its production and also for its operation.