Carrefour in talks to make own-brand halloumi

CARREFOUR said yesterday it was planning to produce its own-brand halloumi, but denied claims it was finalising a deal with Christis dairies.

Despite the company’s denial, a Christis insider made it understood that the deal was as good as done.

“We hope that by the end of the year we’ll have signed the deal… [Carrefour] came to us.

They expressed an interest in manufacturing own-brand halloumi, went to different diary companies and then decided to settle with us.”

The same source said representatives from both companies would meet in Greece over the next few weeks to discuss the final details, including the volume of work, before singing the contract.

“This is very positive move for the Cypriot dairy market and an important agreement which will help promote halloumi abroad,” he said.

Carrefour like other retail chains such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and Sainsbury’s operates strong own-brand labels throughout all its outlets transforming its own labels into brands on a competitive par with manufacturer brands such as Nestl?, Coca-Cola or Mars. The French multinational retailing giant officially launched its operations in Cyprus last month.

It also tries to buy locally in every country of operation as part of its policy to reduce the length of supply chains and minimise their environmental impact.

But Carrefour Purchasing Department Head Michalis Panayides said although the retailing giant was interested in going ahead with the production of its own halloumi, it had not settled on any one supplier for its manufacture.

“We are still in the procedure of taking offers from various dairy companies and have not ended up with one supplier.”

Panayides refused to name which other local dairy companies the multinational was talking to.

If the deal falls through, Christis is sure to end up red-faced after a senior executive told the Cyprus Mail it was a “significant agreement” for the company. News of the Christis-Carrefour cooperation was first reported in Politis yesterday and later confirmed by the dairy company after it put out a stock market statement.

The statement said it had already been inspected and approved for the production of halloumi cheese and other dairy products that the multinational company would distribute worldwide.

“The agreement between Carrefour and Christis is in mature stages. Undoubtedly, this agreement will affect positively the Company’s activities and the export of halloumi cheese,” the statement read.

According to Politis, the own-brand halloumi will first be sold in Cyprus and then be exported in stages to Greece and the Middle East. An important outlet is expected to be its Dubai store where halloumi is popular.

The paper said the retailer had not ruled out promoting halloumi as a delicatessen in other countries.

Carrefour is also currently in the process of speaking to other local suppliers about manufacturing the cheese.

“If they can offer the price and the quality we offer in our products from abroad then we are considering it,” Panayides said.

He said among those items under consideration were paper products, alcoholic beverages, other dairy products and coffee.

As for information that the company had tried and come up against a brick wall over efforts to open petrol stations at its stores, Panayides said this was untrue.

“Abroad our stores operate petrol stations and travel agencies. We are certainly interested in examining doing the same here but we have not yet applied to do so, nor been rejected,” he told the Mail.

Carrefour is the number one retailer in Europe and the world’s second largest, with a presence in 29 countries with 12,078 retail stores employing 436,000 people.

Its presence in Cyprus was made possible following the acquisition of Chris Cash & Carry and it currently has nine stores on the island – five hypermarkets and four supermarkets in Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos.

Two new hypermarkets are set to open in Nicosia, in Athalassa and Engomi in 2007.