HELIOS Pasta Industry was founded in 1932 and has since become an industry leader in the pasta production and distribution business. Their company is a member of the Dakos Group, privately owned exclusively by Panagiotis Dakos’ family, with 4th generation family members holding key positions in the company.
Total Food Service caught up with HELIOS Pasta owner Athanasia Dakou to learn more about the company’s past, present, and future.
Can you please share the history of Helios Pasta. Who were the entrepreneurs behind the launch of the brand?
Our great-grandfather founded the flour mill back in 1875, and today the 4th generation of DAKOS’ MILLS proudly continues to supply high-quality raw materials and cereals, and is the exclusive supplier of the main raw material – i.e. the durum wheat semolina – for HELIOS. This further empowers us through a vertically integrated manufacturing structure, resulting in immediate and effective quality control, and flexibility in the production process.
From its establishment until today, at HELIOS we constantly invest in state-of-the-art equipment for our production facilities, developing new, innovative products that meet our customers’ high standards, and provide the best possible training and support for our people.
What was the niche that you saw when you launched?
Just before the onset of WWII, Greeks were leaving their villages en masse, to move to the capital for a ‘better life’, away from the tough daily activities of farming and working the land.
Pasta, a basic and well-loved food for Greeks, could not be made at home by grandmothers and mothers anymore, as it was no longer easy or efficient to make your own pasta in the big city. The impetus behind the launch of HELIOS was to build a pasta factory to supply Greeks with high quality, delicious pasta, akin to the homemade varieties to which they were accustom.
For nearly a century, the philosophy and mission of HELIOS is to achieve the absolute satisfaction of its customers and consumers. We do what is necessary to provide top quality, delicious and healthy products to each of our customers. Our goal is to follow and promote good sustainability practices to reduce our environmental impact in all our activities and to help our customers and partners do the same.
Do you sell into both retail/grocery and restaurant and foodservice marketplaces? How do they differ?
HELIOS has always been attentive and responsive to the market’s needs, keeping customers satisfied to the fullest by providing high quality, innovative pasta for all target segments and all dietary needs.
We offer a variety of shapes, formulations, and packaging to both our retail and Foodservice / HORECA customers all over the world. The two channels have much in common, such as the need for high quality, consistency, and great value – all of which are vital aspects for both segments; we do, however, see a differentiation in the order volumes, the packaging sizes available.
What is your restaurant customer looking for?
Our restaurant customers are excited about Greek pasta, and are eager to create delicious dishes that evoke the flavors and spirit of the Mediterranean sun and sea. The undisputable quality of our HELIOS Pasta products, coupled with our awarded and innovative shapes, ingredients and formulations, are all benefits that are highly valued by our professional customers, and a key elemental advantage for HELIOS.
Can you walk us through the highlights for the foodservice line?
HELIOS has the incredible competitive advantage of vertical integration and flexible production schedules, and is thereby able to offer a tremendous variety of superior quality Foodservice products made to spec from any cereal/grain, in any of our 80+ shapes, from any of the 20 pasta categories we service.
Our foodservice packaging is available in convenient 6 and 10 pound resealable bags, making HELIOS the ideal, trustworthy pasta supplier for any foodservice customer.
What lead to the decision to bring the product to the US for both the retail and restaurant/foodservice markets? How do you perceive the differences between the Greek restaurant operator and your target US customer?
We recently partnered with Chef Maria Loi on the official US launch of our line, Kiddo Pasta by HELIOS, an amazing children’s pasta line which carries the Loi Approved seal. Kiddo Pasta was designed as a fun and educational experience for the whole family, and is certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Kosher, Halal certified, and Purity award verified.
Our collaboration with Chef Loi and the Lamda Pasta Team will help bridge the gap between the American consumer in the US Market and the Mediterranean consumer, working towards standardizing not only the available variety in retail, but the consumptive habits as well. For restaurant/food service operators, the difference between Greece and the US is minimal, as both countries seek high quality products, and we are here to fulfill that need!
When we think of pasta in the US, there’s a tendency to think of Italian made/inspired product. Can you share the background of the Greek pasta industry? What’s available in natural resources (semolina?) in Greece that allow you to create a signature pasta for the US chef/foodservice professional?
It is true that the origins of pasta have many contradictions and myths – in particular, it is most important to clarify that pasta did not originate in Italy; in fact, pasta’s origins actually extend at least in part back to Greece. As Chef Loi states in her June article in Total Food Service, “most people associate pasta with Italy but as your friendly Greek culinary ambassador, I’m here to tell you that many historians think pasta actually originated, at least in part, in my home country. Though Marco Polo is often credited with bringing pasta to Italy after being inspired by noodles he encountered while traveling in China, historians now say there are plenty of signs pasta was being consumed in Greece long before that.
The land of Greece is very fertile, and sun-kissed for most of the year. The agricultural yield for wheat and other cereals’ of excellent quality is quite high year round, in particular that of Greek durum wheat semolina. In our case, we are very happy to have a 100% vertical integration for production, as we get our high-quality semolina from our sister company Dakos Mills, with 145 years of expertise in cereal milling.
How can your team help our readers with menu suggestions to add to their menus for dine-in and takeout & delivery?
We are confident that your readers will find HELIOS Pasta products not only incredibly delicious, but also inspirational. Pasta is a miraculous recipe ingredient, offering both stability, consistency, and versatility all at the same time. One can make anything with pasta, which is an ideal partner for any culinary combination, be that with meat and poultry, fish and seafood, vegetables or plant-based protein alternatives, or enjoyed on its own with some olive oil. Pasta is the perfect default, as loves pasta as a side dish or a main course.
In collaboration with Chef Loi, we will release menu and recipe suggestions, as well as recipe videos and tips for perfect pasta dishes.
Many of our restaurant work closely with their distributor partners to source menu solutions. What do US distributors need to know about the Helios line?
At HELIOS we care about the fields, our partners from the farmer to the chef to the restaurant owner, our people, and our products. We have the passion and drive to be the best at everything we do, and we love cooperating with people who share the same love for pasta and ethos as we do.
HELIOS is FDA compliant, IFS Food & ISO certified and also has KOSHER and HALAL certifications. It is also the first pasta company – both internationally and the first Greek brand – whose selected products qualified for the Clean Label Project™ Purity Award for their purity from chemicals, pesticide residues and chemical plasticizers. Our organic pasta lines (including Kiddo Pasta by HELIOS) are certified organic by DIO Inspection and Certification Organization of Organic Products, and meet the standards required for the USDA NOP equivalence.
What’s the next step for an U.S. food service operator that would like more info on the Helios line?
We want to make sure that the US foodservice market is aware that HELIOS just launched in US with high-quality, exceptionally delicious pasta products. We are willing to work hard and invest in our dynamic launch to support our continuous growth in the market.
We will be glad to assist, provide more information, and product samples to any Total Food Service readers who would like to know more about HELIOS Pasta Industry and our products. Please visit our website www.heliospastaUSA.com or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, our partner in the US, Chef Maria Loi and the Lamda Pasta team will support HELIOS in the US market as well.