Grecian Delight Foods Inc.
As a second-generation company celebrating its 40-year anniversary, Grecian Delight Foods Inc. (Grecian) showcases the power of a family-operated organization within a niche food industry. At the company’s helm is Peter Parthenis Jr., president and CEO of Grecian, who took over the company from his father, Peter Parthenis Sr.
“The company was founded with an innovative spirit and strong values instilled by my father; and as a second-generation leader it is my responsibility to honor our past and use our founding principles to usher in the future,” says Parthenis Jr. “The company’s past is a journey and evolution over more than three decades. The first decade was about building relationships, manufacturing and distribution prowess and making the gyro sandwich a favorite offering of many quick service restaurants.”
Parthenis Jr. explains that as the company entered its second decade, growth of the gyro sandwich boosted the company. “The gyro allowed us to expose our customers and their consumers to other Greek and Greek inspired foods,” he explains. “Our business continued to grow and evolve and so did America’s eating habits. As the benefits of a healthy Mediterranean diet became more known in our third decade, Grecian evolved again using our core competencies and connection to the Mediterranean.”
During the third decade, Grecian pushed heavily into the Mediterranean industry, and transformed into the foundation of what would eventually be the company’s international model. Parthenis Jr. describes this period as when the company focused on areas in which Grecian products could grow and dominate the market.
“We stopped looking at our business through the lens of what we made, principally the components that make a great gyro sandwich and started to study the market and where it was headed,” he continues. “We also looked at our capabilities in the area of baking, sauce and dip making and finally processing meats or proteins. That new view allowed us to honor the past and build toward an exciting future.”
The company now boasts approximately 150 skus of bread, including pitas and flat breads specifically. “We have expanded our sauce and dip capabilities to include hummus, Greek yogurt dips and even babaganush,” explains Parthenis Jr. “Our meat processing capabilities have expanded into appetizers and entrees. We believe we are poised to be the leader in this growing category – or at least we will help America better understand and enjoy the benefits of a Mediterranean diet.”
Perseverance Meets Passion
The original gyro sandwich alone did not set the dominos falling toward today’s iteration of Grecian. Along with the original quality sandwich came the passion and dedication of Parthenis Sr. “When my dad first started the company he did it all; he was the guy making the product, the sales calls, the deliveries,” says Parthenis Jr.
To market the sandwich, Parthenis Sr. went to any and all restaurant operators, seeking opportunities to sell the gyro, including family diners, snack shops, breakfast diners; anywhere that sold a hamburger or hot dog, basically. It is evident that Parthenis Sr. sought to bring his gyro sandwich into as many stores possible and into the hands of even more customers.
That same passion is still alive and well today within Parthenis Jr., who joined the company full-time in 2000. “I grew up in this business, not in the corner office,” he continues. “I worked in operations and sales and learned by doing. My father is still a huge influence and I have surrounded myself with expertise and people who share my passion for delivering the best.”
Now, Parthenis Jr. oversees Grecian, a privately held organization with more than 220 employees, two facilities, 400 nationwide distributors and 50 brokers. Moreover, Grecian sells 40 percent of gyros purchased nationwide - and shows no signs of slowing.
With a solid hold on Greek and Mediterranean food markets, Grecian has been hailed as a lead innovator in the rapidly expanding category of ethnic foods. The company is constantly searching for new areas of innovation, both for the company’s food products and the ways in which the products are distributed.
“It’s not just that our business has changed over the last three-plus decades; America and its eating habits and patterns have changed, too,” says Parthenis Jr. “In addition to expanding our product portfolio, we have greatly expanded the markets we serve. At the core of our business remains the independent restaurateur – and we will always place a priority against those customers.”
The company’s products can now be found in virtually every channel that food is sold. “We are in the chain restaurants, club stores, colleges, hospitals and increasingly on the grocery store shelf,” says Parthenis Jr. “But, one of the biggest challenges is having the right people and the right processes in place that can support the growth requirements we have. As we have invested both in people and processes our presence has grown, and will continue to do so.”
In the meantime, while Grecian overcomes those challenges, Parthenis Jr. proudly admits to having developed numerous new products for the company’s continued push toward offering more Mediterranean foods. These products include new hummus flavors, Greek yogurt-based spreads, lavash, tabbouleh and various pitas and flatbreads.
And all of these creations seek to do one thing: further solidify Grecian as the lead innovator and service provider of the Mediterranean foods market. With a second-generation professional like Peter Parthenis Jr. behind the company, Grecian Delight Foods Inc. will continue to reinvent and define that market for many years to come.