Greece is not well known as a manufacturer of premium chocolate products, but that’s all about to change here in the U.S. with the OU Kosher certified Serenata™ brand of chocolate wafers. For over 50 years, the family enterprise Tottis-Bingo s.a. has been manufacturing these iconic chocolate wafers for their home market in Greece, in addition to 40 export markets throughout the world.
The Serenata™ chocolate wafer brand was created in 1971 by Angelo Davos, an uneducated, but very ambitious, poor villager from a mountainous village in Southern Greece who moved to Athens to seek a better life. Starting as an employee in one of the ubiquitous kiosks, known in Greece as “periptera”, a young Angelo sold cigarettes, newspapers and snacks. Later, with the help of his older brothers, Angelo started to wholesale cigarettes and his business grew. Not satisfied with that, and recognizing a capacity issue from an established brand, he borrowed some money from a friend and purchased a used wafer machine. Self-taught with a penchant for mechanical devices and a do-it-yourself mentality, Angelo was able to assemble the equipment and make it work. Together with his wife, he then started to produce chocolate wafers from a small warehouse in central Athens, and this is how Bingo s.a. was created.
Due to the high quality of the wafers and Angelo’s connections with the kiosk trade, demand for his chocolate wafer products grew rapidly to the point where they had to relocate to a new and larger production facility on the outskirts of Athens. Besides building a new factory from scratch, Angelo put great effort into recruiting capable, motivated and dedicated personnel as he understood how valuable this would be for the growth of the company. Within 10 years from launch, Serenata™ had become the number one wafer brand in Greece, and soon after that this success spread over to export markets in Europe and the Middle East.
This success ultimately attracted the attention of the Tottis group of companies and a partnership between the two parties started. Based in Northern Greece, Tottis was a successful manufacturer of potato chips, extruded snacks and shelf-stable croissants. Tottis financial strength and successful multi-year collaboration with famous Greek comedian Vasilis N. Triantafillidis, stage name “Harry Klynn”, elevated the Serenata™ brand even further in the domestic Greek market.
Before long, an automated production line for chocolate wafers was established at the Athens plant. In the meantime, circa early 1980’s, a production line for potato chips was added to the original wafer production facility back in Florina, and a new sister company, Tottis Foods International s.a. was created. Eventually, Bingo merged with Tottis Foods Intl. and the new company was renamed Tottis-Bingo s.a.
Fast forward to today and Tottis-Bingo has grown to become a family-run manufacturer of not only chocolate wafers, potato chips and croissants, but bread crisps, bagel chips and bruschettini as well, in two modern state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. Tottis-Bingo even makes their own paperboard cartons! As sustainability has always been a part of Tottis-Bingo’s core values, a new company was created in the early 2000’s to recycle and manufacture corrugated packaging: Tottis Pack s.a. This further guaranteed the safe packaging, storage and handling of all Tottis-Bingo finished products and added to the overall quality of their brands.
With the Tottis-Bingo mission to manufacture only the highest quality products always front of mind, and in keeping with European Union requirements, all Serenata™ chocolate wafers are non-GMO.
Most recently the decision was made by the U.S. importer of Serenata™, Miami based NTP Imports, to better convey to consumers the perception of quality by recommending that Tottis-Bingo apply for OU Kosher dairy certification.
Chocolate products are generally regarded as more of an indulgence, than a necessity, and consumers have become more informed about what they eat. An OU Kosher symbol signals the highest quality standards to the largest and most diverse audiences.
Contrary to popular conception, consumers of kosher foods are not only Jews, but Muslims and members of other religious denominations, as well as vegetarians and the lactose intolerant. Within mainstream and premium chocolate, kosher is the largest claim and the biggest seller, eclipsing other health related claims such as reduced calories, absence of artificial ingredients and gluten-free¹.
Clearly chocolate consumers equate kosher with superior quality, and the Director of Marketing and Brand Development for NTP, George Gelakis, made the recommendation to seek certification, and then selected OU Kosher, the world’s oldest, largest and most recognized kosher certification agency with an excellent reputation in the CPG industry.
This selection was vindicated by the breadth of cooperation between the respective U.S. and European based representatives, the clear communication of a timeline to completion by OU, and their ongoing direction, patience and support… especially given the difference in languages.
It is still too early to quantify the success of obtaining kosher certification, as the new brands containing the OU trademark symbol are being rolled out over the first quarter of 2023. However, the entire Serenata™ team is confident that this effort will bear fruit, and that the eventual market data will support the decision to certify Serenata™ kosher.
¹NCA’ s Sweet Insights, Getting to Know Chocolate Consumers 2021