Yannis Varelas: The Trojan horse in front of the gates of the American market

By Evageline Plakas

“If it’s good enough for the ancient Greeks, it’s gotta be good for us!”

Healthy, on the go, energy every single morning!


What makes a businessman last?


Yannis Varelas is a businessman strict with himself. His ethos distinguishes him from others. A young man that reminds us of an old-fashioned gentleman. An entrepreneur who is first interested for the quality and balanced innovation of the product he distributes on the market without thinking the easy and quick money. A man investing in the long run. That isn’t strange, since he comes from a family that for the past century feeds Greeks with a huge range of products in bakery and confectionery.

That is the “Mills of Thrace”, a historic, family-run business known to all Greeks for the products it produces from the rich land of Thrace. His grandfather, Ioannis  Varelas, a refugee who settled in Ferries in Western Thrace, designed and established the most modern mill in the area, the “Y.Uzounopoulou& Co.” Flour Mill. Throughout the years, grandfather Ioannis Ouzounopoulos he got married with Golden Gargana and unites the two families with a strong tradition in the flour industry in East and West Thrace while later he modernizes the mills using the latest technology. In the 1970s he constructed the most modern mills in Alexandroupolis.

With his premature death in 1982 he delivers the company that is among the 50 most profitable in Greece with a strong export orientation and is considered the most important employer in the region of Thrace. At the same time, the company is ranked among the top quality flours companies all over Greece. In 2004, the management of the company is strongly oriented towards modern management methods and innovative functions and products. Investments are in the spirit of modernization and innovation by developing a new generation of high added value products for the consumer and the business, so the company acquires a modern structure and function.


The objectives of the company have been extended to the upgrading of Greek cereals by successfully starting the cultivation of soft cereals. The company was distinguished in 2018 at the Bravo Sustainability Awards, an institution implemented by Quality Net Foundation, consisting of the “Ambassadors for Sustainable Development” of a philosophy that supports a sustainable future with companies that contribute to the creation of the future of Greece.

Yannis Varelas is the fifth generation of the family business “Mills of Thrace”. As a new entrepreneur, over the past five years, he has sought to capitalize on the benefits of the business by launching OLYRA products with the export-minded pursuit of opportunities in the US market.


Studying the pioneering food industry in the American market, the needs and trends, he created the –new habit breakfast– by replacing the classic cereal bars, becoming competitive to a brutal multi-million market, in one year only. The new trend for ancient cereals and healthy products in America and the intelligent thinking of exporting products that honor the history and wisdom of the Greeks, prompted Yannis Varelas to create three different and separate biscuits, one for Olympic Runners with cinnamon and tahini, one for Spartan Warriors with hazelnut and carob and a third for Athenian Philosophers with fig and anise.

The products are based on four components: spelt, lupine, oats and barley grown by the family business and ground in stone mills. An important difference that distinguishes OLYRA products is that they are vegan, instead of eggs they contain linseed and are certified non GMO products. They have excellent nutritional data, as a pack of biscuits has more protein and fiber and less sugar than all cereal bars sold in America.

Yannis Varelas and his products make the difference. Starting to sell in the traditional way, from shop-grocery store to shop-grocery, in one year he managed to enter in large supermarkets, in 19 States of America by tackling the colossal organic food market that is winning 10% in the growth of healthy organic products and creates all the innovation in the field of the nutrition and diet. Yannis Varelas aims at the new healthy oriented generations but also in the old generations, the people who believe in values ​​like those of the ancient Greeks, “all measures excellent”.

Yannis Varelas is a young man with strong values, ethos, patience and insistence, OLYRA products are made out of love and care for the needs of the consumer, the product packaging is focused on the wisdom and history of ancient Greeks, America is the country that embraces innovation and creates new trends, success is for granted.

Yannis, in spite of his young age,replied honestly and simply in an important and “deep” question as he described it, who is the man behind the name of Yannis Varelas: “


“The most important thing in my life is my family, my friends, my people. Happiness comes only through the cultivation of healthy relationships. I want to create and help my country, which I love. I want to meet people’s needs through the wisdom of ancient Greeks philosophy.”


Ιn heavy times of consumerism where the shelvesin the supermarkets are burdened with mutation and controversial nutritional value, a theoretically romantic, young entrepreneur has brought the “surprises” of the Trojan Horse of the Greeks, in front of the gates of the American market.