Hackney born, Tony Charalambides, 42, set up the business in December 2021 with the help from his side kick and best buddie, Aaron Grey, 32. Just 11 months later, his British charcuterie has been catapulted into the limelight and will be on shelves in Aldi stores nationwide from 25th November.
The duo were awarded the life changing contract in last night’s episode of Aldi’s Next Big Thing, which focused on the fresh & deli category.
In the show, which is hosted by Anita Rani, of Countryfile and BBC Radio 4 and Chris Bavin, of Britain’s Best Home Cook and Eat Well for Less, hopeful suppliers compete for a space on Aldi’s shelves, before Aldi’s Julie Ashfield decides on the winner.
Tony and Aaron fought off tough competition from freshly made samosas, scotch eggs and even peanut butter and broccoli sausages, before finally beating ‘I AM NUT OK’, a vegan cheese producer to take the top prize.
Former builder Tony is of Greek Cypriot and Irish heritage, and it’s his childhood nickname ‘The Greek’ that inspired the eponymous brand.
Tony says: “Family and food were and still are the most important factors growing up in a Cypriot and Irish household. I’ve been in Cyprus quite a lot of my life eating Greek food, and it was something that I wanted to bring back to the UK. When I met Aaron at my son’s birthday party four years ago we bonded over good food. So when the opportunity came to start curing meats together, it just made sense.
“We smoke our meats in an old disused silo on my farm using traditional Greek methods and flavourings – that makes us the only UK Greek producer of cured meats.”
The product impressed from the start with its great taste and provenance – only free-range British pork and beef are used and everything is produced on Tony’s Hertfordshire farm. Julie challenged the duo with tweaking their packaging to include a selection of cured meats and to bring out the Britishness front of pack. The biggest test, however, was the time frame the duo had to produce the cured meat – just 17 weeks to complete a process that usually takes 16 weeks.
Aaron explains: “You have to be patient with cured meat so you can’t speed up any processes. It takes time.”
In the programme presenter Chris Bavin was concerned about the lead time, but Aaron is seen reassuring him: “You worry too much.”
Luckily for Aldi, Aaron proved to be right, as The Greek Farmer’s charcuterie selection of air-dried meats (including beef, pork loin, pork belly thins and ham) will be available in stores from 25th November. But shoppers will need to get in quick to get a chance to try, as with all Specialbuys, once they’re gone, they’re gone!
Tony says:“It’s mind-blowing for the pair of us. We only launched in December, and now we’ve won this amazing competition and are going to be on Aldi’s shelves. What I was hoping for in year three, four or five potentially has now come to play in year one, not even year one. It’s going to catapult our business for sure.”
Julie Ashfield said about choosing the winner: “It was tough for me to decide because I could see how hard both of the finalists had worked to get there but the provenance and the traditional method of The Greek Farmer won out for me in the end. The product tasted excellent and I just felt if we can get that product to store, customers will really, really love it.”
The multi-category competition is part of Aldi’s ongoing commitment to locally sourced products. Aldi has pledged to prioritise home-grown suppliers as it works towards spending an additional £3.5 billion a year with British businesses by the end of 2025.
Aldi’s Next Big Thing airs on Channel 4, every Thursday at 8pm until 24th November.
As the cold weather begins to settle in, Aldi has announced the return of some of its best-selling winter warmers. From the popular Heated Throw to a range of Electric Blankets and Hot Water Bottles, including a brand-new Body Wrap Hot Water Bottle, Aldi has those perfect cosy wintery nights covered. Available in-stores only from 23rd November, shoppers better be quick, as once they’re gone, they’re gone!