Peter Spyros Goudas Speech in Costa Rica June 2004

After being introduced by the speaker of the house, Mr. Goudas speaks as follows:

Thank you so much. Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

Forgive me for my Spanish for I do not know a word of Spanish yet but I did learn a couple words this afternoon and you will also have to forgive me about my English because although I spent forty years in Canada doing business I never went to English school yet.

Let me introduce a little bit about myself, how I started the business and where I am coming from so at least you could follow up the direction I have to lead this conversation for today.

I was born in Athens, Greece in 1942 from a very poor family and I went to school in Greece. I started working very young and Greece was under the German occupation; the country was almost destroyed at that time.
I started working since I was nine (9) in the construction business as well as attending school, in engineering.
Finally when I reached twenty (20) years old I went to the army, which was mandatory in Greece, and I spent there five (5) years in Aircraft Engineering.
When I was just released from the Army in 1967, approximately the 15th of April, a week later thedictatorship took over the country and they recalled all the people that were just released from the army to go back again. And therefore I decided to go to Canada.

Obviously, I did not know anybody in Canada I did not know the language, and I did not have any money. I ended up sleeping on the streets of Toronto but I found a job, worked hard, saved some money and I thought it was a good idea to go into the food business.
So in 1969 I purchased one store and that store lead me to understand more and more about the food industry.

But when I was in Canada in 1967 I realized that the different nationalities of people within any area that I had been into had nothing to do with being Canadian; most of them used to be, let's say, Indian, I am talking East Indians, Sri Lankans, Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Germans and all the other nationalities.
So when I opened the store I tried to understand what every nationality was all about and what they liked to eat.

I was able to ask questions and I was demanding answers. Some people did not speak the language well; of course I was not speaking English well too.
I was having some dinners and over the dinners I asked questions: why they liked it hot, why they liked it more chili, why they liked it more mild, what/which products they used, and that led me to understand what everyone likes to eat according to his/her nationality.

As the time went by, I was able to save a little more money and I bought a packaging plant where I started to package rice. Rice to me was a very new thing and in fact in my country we used to eat rice once a year, but when I noticed that the Chinese eat rice three times a day, I started to get very curious about it and then I realized that there were thirty-two (32) varieties of rice, and I am not exaggerating . 

So every nationality likes to eat its own things. And some times one country produces something or has something growing on their tree and they do not know what it is all about. I give you only one (1) example: in this country you have an item which you call Ackee, a-c-k-e-e, any of you know what ackee is all about? (no response from the audience). Ah, yes, nobody knows and yet a few kilometers from here there is a farm that produces ackees.What I saw yesterday in one of your supermarkets you only have two (2) varieties and when I asked the store manager about Calrose rice he did not know what I was talking about; when I asked him where the Basmati Rice is he also did not know anything about it.

We can it here and we bottle it here, we bring it into Canada and we sell them to Jamaicans because that is their national food, and they eat the ackees with cod fish (Baccala), maybe you know it and maybe you do not. However, every Jamaican family eats a can or two or three of ackees every week. It is a very expensive product; a can of 19ounces in the Canadian market today costs approximately $8.00.

It takes a lot to understand the food business and I told myself that after five (years) in the business I would probably retire, maybe I would have enough money to go back to Greece, or maybe have vacations here and there.
However, my time has been occupied almost twenty (20) hours a day, seven (7) days a week and I enjoy at age sixty-two (62) more and more and more because now I understand what every nationality in the world likes to eat.

If that makes any sense to you, I would continue. (The audience gives him the signal to continue.)

To run an organization like mine, it seems to be an easy thing to do but when I have to deal with over twenty (20) countries and most of the people that I deal with they do not even know English so they have to have somebody translate to me on the telephone and when I am talking to people in China for instance, I am talking lately to mainland China, it makes it a very difficult thing to do.

And yet, the people I am dealing with, they are willing to produces the products for the Canadian market and be successful. The main thing that I am looking,, for any product that we produce, is top quality disregard the fact of what the product is.

And then we have to take this product and we have to analyze it, make sure that it complies with the Canadian Food and Drug regulations which many of you think is a tough thing to do, but the Canadian Government is very flexible and is willing to teach anybody that is either in packaging or canning business to do a good product, that is what we are looking for, a very good product, stable and safe enough for our consumers in Canada.

The canning industry has been changing in the last few years and now we have a coated can that is very important and I think your government should take note to make sure that they are working with the Canadian authorities to be able to have a proper sterilization.

Since I arrived the day before yesterday, I had a meeting with at least twenty (20) companies, that is half-an-hour a company and for each company. There were five (5) or six (6) people, and they are all willing to do business in Canada. But it seems to me that some of them do not know how to do it.

I am going to mention to you that although that seems to be a very easy task for any of you that is a producer to deal with a Canadian company, I can tell you that it is not as easy as it appears to be.

First of all, if you telephone any distribution company in Canada and you are willing to sell them something - and that is because some companies are not stable-they are willing to buy anything, but when the time comes to pay that is another thing you have to watch.

Therefore, your government, I think, should have a program in place to be able to show you what a Letter of Credit is all about.

At least your effort and hard work over the years, from the saving of money that you have in the bank to do your business is not going to be wasted if you sell to somebody that is planning to go bankrupt.

Am I making sense up to now? (Audience waves yes with their hands.)

I am not here to do any business; my program is to be here and to talk about business.

When initially I had a phone call two months ago, from the company Procomer, from a gentleman who called my office, Itzamn Huelat, he was trying to make an appointment.

As I said earlier I am working twenty hours a day I start with my secretary at 4 o'clock in the morning; she finishes at five and I continue with a next secretary and probably go on until midnight, and over the weekends.
And within my course of the day I have to deal with the people in packaging, in canning, distribution, supermarket sales, and anything else. So my time is very valuable and sometime people, if they really want to see me, probably they have to make an appointment two or three months ahead.

However, Mr. Itzamn Huelat called the office and I talked to him for a few seconds and then I invited him the same evening in the office.
Seems to me he was a very interesting man. He told me he is working for a company, Procomer, who has an association with Costa Rica.

I never had any business in Costa Rica except one company, Kamuk, that we do our pepper sauce for the Canadian market. If you go to any supermarket in Canada you see the pepper sauce under the Goudas brand that is made right here in Costa Rica. 

I am very happy with that particular company, and since Procomer told me about these other companies of this kind of stature, I invited him to the office and we spoke for the rest of the afternoon. Finally he made arrangements, along with the CACIA, and I decided to come to Costa Rica.

I have never been out of my office for
the last thirty-five years. I do canning in Toronto - Canada, in Limington - Ontario, in Belleville - Ontario, and I am also ssociated with some plants in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

When I initially had a meeting ten years ago with the people in Thailand and they came to see me, we started with one product, named coconut milk.

Well, for the first time in my life, I saw a coconut tree today, yet I produce more coconut crème and milk products for Canada and the United States than anybody in this world.

And the first time I saw a tree today.(This humorous statement by Mr. Goudas has a big effect on the audience, as they all burst into laughs).

That tells me that the people who do the job for me are professionals, and my business is how to market these products, and I know that although you have the coconut trees and some of them cut the coconut and drink the juice and feel good about that, but that you have to know that in China, every time they cook rice, they take a slice of coconut crème melting down like butter and they put on top of the rice and it melts like butter, and that coconut gives a completely different flavor and they use it constantly.

The same products are used by the East Indians and Sri Lankans.

In the last few years also, we developed another product, which was not well known in Canada because they have something that they call 'fruit cocktail', and the fruit cocktail is supposed to have three (3) fruits inside, most of them contain pears, peaches and another fruit. But I thought that it would be a very good idea to create something different and I talked to the people in Thailand, and along with the department of Agriculture, we were able to create something which I called The Exotic Fruit Cocktail.It has papaya, guava, pineapple and cubes of 1cm square of coconuts inside.
That particular flavor was well accepted in the Canadian food market, and today the exotic fruit cocktail is the number one seller in the world.

I introduced that into the Canadian market; I am starting introducing into the American market and whatever I have left besides Japan, buys it and enjoys this product.

When I was talking yesterday to some people about coconut jelly, they did not know what it was all about; therefore, I made some arrangements to send them some products so they will be able to analyze it, see if you can also make a product like that.
This is what we call a value added product.

Of course you can sell all the pineapple you ever had, of course you can sell all the coconuts you ever had, but some times you have leftovers. For instance a pineapple - there is a company like Dole that has the slices in the cans and you see that they have the center portion which is approximately an inch and a half missing from the center of the pineapple, and because they only use three and a half inches in diameter from their slices everything left behind just goes to waste.

But in Thailand, we thought that it would be a good idea to take this portion that is left over and produce a product we call 'the pineapple pizza cut'. Maybe you do not know what I am talking about, but in Canada we promote in such a way that if you want to buy a pizza from a pizza place, the best tasting pizza is the pizza, which has a little piece of pineapple on the top. Now everybody goes crazy, they like pineapple pizza cut... that adds value to the product.

The gentleman who was here before mentioned that he likes to make thirty-one percent for his stores and if he makes that, I can tell you, next year he will have to make thirty-two percent.
Maybe some of you think that he says that at thirty-one percent from the cost, but he did not really mean that. He means from the selling point, he likes to make thirty-one percent, and that sometimes is a very difficult thing to do on the commodity items.
So our business is to make sure that the farmers survive, the canners survive, the transportation company, the distribution, and also the supermarket, survive.
As I said earlier on, to survive today you have to make a very good quality product, because the last thing we want to have from the Canadian government is something that they call 'recall'.
I am not going to ask too many people if they know what recall is but if the product sometimes goes into the country and goes through customs and pass the exams because nobody really look at it, but somewhere along the line somebody is getting sick out there, have a stomach pain, then, the inspectors go to the supplier and then they go to the manufacturer and if something is a health hazard they have to recall the products from the supermarket.
And I can tell you that if this happens, many people go out of business: the supplier, the manufacturer, etc., so you have to be very careful.

Today I have just been informed that two of the Canadian authorities are here today: Mr. Chantal Labelle, whom I have met some time ago and Manuel Ruiz. They both work for the Canadian government.
That tells me that the Canadians are looking at you right now and they think that you are an important sector into this industry. Now, in the Canadian market there are several chain stores, I do not know if any of you have an opportunity to read my brochure, but there are more than twenty (20) of them.
Let's start with a name that some of you know: they are called Wal-Mart, they are not really in the food business, but they are getting into that. You also have people like National Groceries who own three hundred (300) supermarkets like No Frills and Loblaws and other organizations.
Now, to put one item within their channel it is a very difficult thing to do: (The camera is moving into the audience; they are all concentrating on what Mr. Goudas has to say.
Some people in the audience are wearing air speakers. Apparently, he has captured the attention of everyone in the audience.) For you to put something in those stores, means they have to take something out, because the shelf space is not getting any bigger; they remain the same and the real estate in the market has become very expensive proposition. And sometimes you have to pay leasing fees.

But there is another sector of the business, which is the independent account; and really if you have the factory somewhere and you could produce the products, sometimes it is very difficult to release a product in Canada and take a case here and a case there, and delivering to three thousand supermarkets in Ontario and so many in Quebec.
You will need a 'distribution center', and I produce approximate 600 products. I have a canning factory which I perfect all the can beans for many different nationalities of maybe 30 varieties, in two different sizes, plus the institutional sizes for the restaurant sector; then we have the tomato products, and when I was in the supermarket last night I saw a small section of tomato products and that really surprised me as there was only one company.
In Canada that is a very big sector that requires at least twenty-four feet of subspace, in which we have diced tomato, whole tomato, crushed tomato, tomato paste, tomato with herbs, tomato without herbs, this tomato, that tomato for this nationality, tomato with basil, tomato without basil, with oregano, without oregano, depends as I said on the different nationalities.

One thing that we developed a few years ago is the Coconut Water. I mean, we did not develop the coconut water, we have to take it from the coconuts and because certain nationalities drink coconut water on a daily basis, we thought it was a good idea to introduce this product into the Canadian market as well to not only the Chinese but other nationalities including the East Indians, Sri Lankans and the Philippine.

The coconut that we produce has very small pieces of soft coconut inside that you drink and then you bite it in the end, after you finish drinking (Mr. Goudas demonstrates with his hand, how smooth the water goes through the throat). And then you end up with a piece in the mouth and you move it from here to there (He points with his fingers the left and right side of the mouth).
Because you do not want to spit it out because it tastes so good, you do not want to swallow it because you do not want to loose all of that beautiful taste, so you have the piece in your mouth and it goes around and around. That is a wonderful product and I was just wondering if any of you have tried it when you were in Canada.

That is an item ideal for this country to do and the reason I am saying it is good for this country to do is because you have the products and the benefit you have is the freight to come between Canada instead to get them from Thailand to Canada, which the freight is twice as much.

So if you pay two thousand dollars extra freight from Thailand to Canada, and you will be able to do it right here and make a good product, then you get good savings, and that is what we have to make sure that the gentleman who was talking earlier on instead of thirty-one percent now he would make thirty-two percent so he can come back here next year and talk to you again and tell you how good people you are and all these things so he can do business with you. We have to make sure that he makes the money because the retailer is the one who has to make the money and that is the most important thing.

So when you make a product, do not think of how much money you have to make in your pocket first; you have to know what they want. And it is not just him that is only one sector; there are over twenty (20) different chain stores in Canada and all the independent accounts it is important for them to make money then they will promote the products. Earlier on today, very early this morning, I had a meeting with a sugar company and there is a strong possibility to do big business in Canada in the sugar sector.

There are two major players in the market, one is Red Path and the other is Laica.
They probably have ninety-five percent of the sugar business. My understanding is they buy very little from Costa Rica; so there is a very big opportunity.

The next opportunity that I saw is the pepper sauce situation. You have wonderful peppers here and the variation within the bottles and the pepper sauce you can enhance them in such a way that the people either in the United States or Canada love your products. You can do steak sauce, you can do barbeque sauce, you can do a red sauce, many things instead to do just pepper sauce.

Remember if you look over the map of the world that I have in my office, Costa Rica is just a little dot and to the Canadians, Costa Rica means nothing.

In fact, I can tell you this, just before I leave and I do have a lot of friends within the industry, and because they do know that I never leave the office they ask me 'where are you going', I say 'I am going to Costa Rica'. Oh! I must have heard over twenty (20) variations about the country: One guy says.: "Listen, you better have something to tie around your belt because someone will steal your wallet" and things like that.

(The audience laughs. Mr. Goudas now has full control of a capacity crowd and he looks all over the audience. He allows them a full moment for the translator to relate what he said and even the Spanish audience laughs like an echo).

So I said to myself: "Am I safe to go?" First time in thirty-five years I leave the country, I am going to go down there and somebody is going to kill me (more laughter from the audience).

So I say: "Look, I am very happy with the company that I am dealing with presently, especially with the gentleman who runs the corporation, his name is Antonio".
Then I was so happy to meet Mr. Huelat in Toronto, and we had dinner the day before I left with his wonderful wife, who by the way is from the Dominican Republic.
He advised me what to do and so forth and finally I came here to see such wonderful people, to see a wonderful country, to see really something I did not expect to see.

All the people that I met yesterday and all the people I met today, they were not only polite, they are willing at least to try.
But I can tell you, they need some work to be able to understand the market more and more and more so whoever puts his money, his hard earned money over the years on the investment to produce a product for the Canadian or American market, he has to be very careful of how to do things.

And there are people within the organization that I think they are able to help you to understand more and more. Procomer is a very wonderful organization both the people in Canada and the people within the department here as well as the CACIA is very good people too. If you have a question please do not hesitate to call them; just give them a call they are capable to answer the questions.

However, when it comes to the products' regulations, seeming process, blowing up cans, things like that, you need to have specifications from the Canadian government and in the pursuit that I send you through your commerce here I give you two people to deal with.

They are independent people, at the moment they are not working with the government, they are working as independent advisers. They both have thirty-years experience within the canning and food industry. It does not cost you anything. Just give them a call and they would be very happy to help you.

If anyone wants to contact me in Canada, the name of the company is the same as my last name, GOUDAS, the website is, for anyone who wants to write it down or they can contact through the organization who planned the event today, or Procomer. It is wise to do so if you want to. 

By visiting my website, you realize that sometimes it is not a really easy thing to do, it takes years of understanding, perseverance, focusing and more of you are going to end up in this business. Some of you who look quite young at the moment, believe me, you are going to be sixty-two at one time and still you would like to do things because food business today is a wonderful business.

The gentleman just handed me a piece of paper telling me I have a few more seconds to go.
I would like to thank everybody who is here today, especially the people who invited me here today.

I had a wonderful day and I have one more day to stay; and who knows, someday, I will be back again.

Thank you so much.
(Mr. Goudas receives a standing ovation as he is leaving the podium walking to his original post to receive a framed Award from the president of the CACIA organization. The Spanish speaker of the house thanks Mr. Goudas over the speakers).

It is important to note that Mr. Goudas gave this entire speech without reading any notes.

According to many of the participants whom Mr. Goudas met after his speech, they claimed that his speech not only captured their attention, but most importantly they learned a great deal of information relevant to their business.

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