The bottom of Alonissos hides untold treasures in the ancient wrecks that have been identified so far by archaeologists. However, perhaps the most authentic corner of the Northern Sporades, with its wild Mediterranean beauty, has another wealth. The gifts of nature are generous, like the Alonissos tuna, which from this small dot of land in the middle of the Aegean Sea, travels all over the world.
For thirteen years now, a family from Alonissos has invested a lifetime’s efforts in the processing of tuna. “Alelma Fine Delicatessen Alonissos”, as is the full name of the processing and standardization laboratory of the well-known fish caught in the waters of Alonissos and beyond, highlights, through the quality products it markets, a “hidden treasure” of the island.
The history of the successful company began with Giorgos Anagnostou, a fishmonger by profession, and his wife, Amalia Kalogiannis, who knew first hand the authentic Alonissian tuna processing recipes. The couple’s common denominator was their dedication to creating a high-quality (gourmet) product, which would “take off” Alonissos tuna. From 2007 until today, “Alelma”, which came from the initials of the names of the three children of the Anagnostou family (Alexandros, Elpida, Maria), has made the gastronomy of Alonissos famous throughout the world, as well as the wealth that the deep blue waters hide Aegean waters.
“The most important thing is the recipe we have here in Alonissos. All processing is done by hand. That’s why the fillets are cleaner, more neat. The process is simple. He boils the fish and after it is cooked, it is cleaned, dried and then put in the jar with water, oil or sunflower oil. At the end it is sterilized and then it is ready for consumption”, explained Mr. Alexandros Anagnostou, production manager at “Alelma”, talking about the processing of two types of tuna: red (tuna) and white (alalunga), which are caught in different seasons next year. The red tuna, which reaches up to 200-300 kg, is fished in the winter, between January and February, while the white tuna season is from July to August. “They are migratory fish, they enter the Aegean, circle and leave. They are not caught all season,” said the 26-year-old Alonissiotis, who studied Business Administration in Thessaloniki.
Tuna began to be fished in Alonissos around the mid-80s. “This particular product has become a trademark for Alonissos. We promote it quite well and at the same time advertise our island. It’s nice for a place to show that it produces things. And especially with what happened this year with the coronavirus, we have the opportunity to reflect that an island, like Alonissos for example, is not only about tourism. There is also the primary sector,” he emphasized.
With the production of Alelma tuna ranging between 150,000-200,000 pieces annually, the weight falls on domestic consumption. “We are interested in the Greek market. We have a presence in large supermarket chains, but also in many points of sale throughout the country”, he pointed out, while he then referred to the company’s export activity: “We supply to Germany, France, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria. Last winter, we also received an offer from Japan, but with the pandemic we currently have no progress. The Japanese have entered the market very dynamically and prefer fresh fish caught in the Aegean. The Mediterranean is still clean and the catch does not have heavy metals, while it is very rich in Omega 3 fats.”
The relationship of the Anagnostou family with Alonissos tuna led to another business venture, for which the young islander revealed more details: “Since last year we have been operating a restaurant in Patitiri and promoting various recipes that one can make with tuna. Either fresh or from the jar we make.” As for his goals for the future? “The most important thing is to keep the quality at a high level and maintain the relationship of trust with the consumer. Everything else is coming,” he concluded.