Phil Lodico ⬥ 15 June
Despite months of troubling news from financially wrought Greece, ICANN’s gTLD Reveal last Wednesday shed light on one Greek company who seems willing to gamble on an uncertain future. In a move that signifies a tradition of innovation, Fage Dairy Industry S.A., makers of the popular Fage Greek yogurt, applied for .FAGE.
What’s more, Fage is not only the sole Greek company to apply, but also one of just three applicants from the foods services industry. McDonalds and Heinz applied for .MCD and .MCDONALDS, and .HEINZ and .KETCHUP, respectively. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Yum Brands, Kraft, Kellogg, General Mills and other similar brands were noticeably absent from Wednesday’s excitement.
Yet as we take a closer look at Fage’s history, its application becomes less surprising. In under a century, the company has mounted an impressive rise to global dairy-stardom. Founded in 1926 in then-rural Athens, Fage remains family owned and operated. The company began national distribution in 1964, followed by exportation, first to the UK, in 1980. Exports to the U.S. began in the late 1990s, and Fage opened its first American production facility in 2008. In 2011, Fage acheived €385 million in net sales. Theirs is a story of the underdog: a mom-and-pop store that grew to international recognition, and continues to beat out food giants like Kraft and General Mills.
Today, Fage’s toughest competition is the New York based Chobani. Founded in 2005 by a Turkish immigrant, Chobani currently leads the U.S. yogurt market, but it has nowhere near Fage’s experience and it has only just begun branching out into the international market. Neither Chobani, Oikos by Dannon, nor Athenos by Kraft applied for gTLDs, so it is arguably Fage who holds the title of reigning yogurt champ – at least in the digital sphere.
Still, if Fage’s application wins points for boldness, we have to ask the obligatory question: what’s next? Part of the problem for the food industry is that, with the exception of specialty delivery services like FreshDirect and Peapod, purchases are rarely made online. How and in what capacity Fage plans to use its gTLD remains unclear, but we’re willing to guess it could become a powerful marketing tool.
It’s true that Fage could potentially face significant challenges in its Greek production centers and global supply chain, given the economic turmoil. But the company’s presence in the gTLD frontier conveys its willingness to continue taking risks and building its brand.