Innovation, extroversion help Greek snail producer weather COVID-19 crisis

On the outskirts of Larissa, the capital of the Thessaly region in central Greece, a company called Mediterranean Escargots specializes in breeding and trading white snails. Its main markets are Europe, the Middle East and Asia, — and most recently China.

Mediterranean Escargots has invested more than 20 years of innovative research and development in raising white snails (Cornu aspersum) solely with Greek organic foods and herbs, free of any use of chemicals or antibiotics. The company has managed to maintain the production of snails of high gastronomic value even against the backdrop of a decade-long financial crisis followed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Athanasios Gogas told Xinhua in a recent interview here.

A biologist by training, Gogas worked at a prestigious agricultural research and development institute in France before launching Mediterranean Escargots in Greece in 1997. Today, the company employs 40 people full-time and many more on short-term contracts. It produces 70-100 tons of snails a year, plus 15 tons of caviar in 2020.

The company’s best known product is undoubtedly the white snail. “It is a unique kind of snail which differentiates us from our competitors,” he said.

White snails stand out due to their whitish shell and light-colored tasty meat with high levels of protein and collagen. The company strictly abides by the animal welfare code of practice for breeding.

“It is not only the external image that differentiates the snails, but also the quality of their meat. The breeding conditions enable us to produce snails that are rich in Omega-3, antioxidants and protein. Ours is a luxury product and a super food, which is unique in the world,” he said.

White snail caviar, the company’s other specialty product, is used in skincare, for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, has an aphrodisiac effect and many consider it as an elixir of youth, he said.

Greeks have appreciated the high nutritional value of snails for centuries.

“Greeks have been consuming snails since ancient times. There are references even from the Minoan period (3,000-1,100 B.C.). We understand that snails were among the basic ingredients in their diet. Snails were and still are part of the Mediterranean diet,” Gogas said.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who is widely considered to be the father of western medicine, and those who followed in his footsteps also used snails as a medicine, he added.

“Almost the whole of our production now is exported. This is our company’s expansion strategy. We see great prospects of growth in new markets, mainly in Asia,” Gogas told Xinhua.

“We are planning to enter the Chinese market in a coordinated way based on our strategy,” he said.

Gogas has already found partners in China and they are in the process of creating a sales network. Mediterranean Escargots participated in last year’s edition of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai and he welcomed several visitors at the company’s booth, showcasing the white caviar.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic has slowed down his efforts to start exports to China in 2020, but he keeps working and is optimistic about the future.

He is confident the company will overcome this challenge, as it overcame the harsh financial crisis which brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy a decade ago.

Innovation and extroversion were keys to Mediterranean Escargots’ success throughout these difficult years.

“The establishment and development of our company was based on innovation. We are investing each year in innovation and growth, both in technology and in production. The result of this investment became obvious during the coronavirus crisis. We have the possibility and the strength to offer products that can withstand the crisis,” he said.

Early next year, the company plans to launch a new line of unique cosmetic and personal care products made from white snail caviar.

Mediterranean Escargots already has international patents for all these products.