Food for thought

Google ‘world’s healthiest diet’ and the word ‘Mediterranean’ pops up more than any other. The Mediterranean diet is synonymous with good health and a long life. In fact, the Greek island of Ikaria has made headlines for being one of the places with the highest longevity in the world – one-third of the population lives beyond the age of 90 years.

Given this image, it’s hard to believe that Greece - the Mediterranean country known to produce some of the healthiest foods - grapples with malnutrition. Harsh as it may be, that’s the reality; high youth unemployment puts many at risk of being underfed. 

The irony was not lost on Melina Taprantzi

But instead of ignoring the social malaise, she decided to do something about it. She founded a business that supports small farm producers in Greece, at the same time feeding the underprivileged and skilling Greek youngsters.  

Wise Greece, winner of the Allianz Future Generations Award 2019, promotes top-quality Greek products locally and internationally, using its profits to meet the nutritional needs of those in need. In addition, its Wise Greece Academy teaches young Greeks the ins and outs of the farming industry, empowering them to build a better future. “They improve their job prospects and the country’s farming industry thrives,” says 35-year-old Melina. 

In a tough competition, Wise Greece beat out seven other social startups this year to win a 40,000-euro grant from Allianz. The grant will go a long way in granting some basic wishes. “We will use it to create an online platform to provide courses to children even in the remotest parts of the country, set up an innovation center and maybe even launch a food innovation contest,” adds the social entrepreneur. “Our aim is to reach 4,500 young people next year.” 

allianz future generations award 2019 wise greece
Melina Taprantzi (left) of Wise Greece poses with the Allianz Future Generations Award 2019 check

Friend, philosopher and guide

Melina graduated in philosophy but worked in marketing and communications for over a decade before she decided to use her skills for society. Social entrepreneurship was the answer.

She founded Wise Greece in 2013. Since then, the startup has given over 100 small producers a platform to market more than 2,500 products in eight countries. Profits earned have been used to buy over 30 tons of food and donate to soup kitchens, children, families and the elderly. More than 2,000 children have benefitted so far.

Business is good. Sales are growing at an annual clip of 40 percent.

Although farming is one of the mainstays of the Greek economy, Melina and her crew were horrified to find in a survey that awareness of the industry and career interest in it was disturbingly low among youngsters. As many of 75 percent of the children surveyed did not have any interest in agriculture, Greece’s second largest industry.

Thus, Wise Greece Academy was conceived.

With a vision to attract talent to the farm sector, the academy targets the entire range of youngsters: workshops and farm visits get primary school children excited about agriculture; agri innovation workshops show high-school students the possibilities; and hands-on training prepares young adults for future food entrepreneurship.

“As many 80 percent of the youngsters who have participated in our workshops now want to work in the agri-food sector. Moreover, 50 percent came up with some really innovative ideas to combine technology with agriculture,” Melina says. 

Awards a-plenty

The uniqueness of Wise Greece’s work has not gone unnoticed.

Besides the Allianz Future Generations Award, the startup has won the European Social Challenge Award 2018 and been recognized as a ‘Model of Excellence’ by the President of the Greek Republic, among other honors.

At the pitching ceremony for the Allianz award, Melina left the judges impressed not only with her creative idea but also with her energy and enthusiasm.

Nadja Malak, the Head of Corporate Partnerships at SOS Children’s Villages Worldwide and a member of the judging panel, said: “Wise Greece has a sound business model. The team addresses a huge socioeconomic problem in Greece. Youth unemployment is as high as 45 percent in rural areas. The solution is fascinatingly simple but it works!”

Watch Future Generations Award finalists pitching their startup ideas...

So the next time you need olives for that summer party or a delicious jam to gift a colleague, look no further than Wise Greece. “You buy a top-quality Greek product from us and you know that with your money, somebody else also gets a healthy dinner tonight,” Melina finishes.

Congratulations to the winner and good luck!

The Allianz Group is one of the world's leading insurers and asset managers with 126 million* private and corporate customers in more than 70 countries. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life and health insurance to assistance services to credit insurance and global business insurance. Allianz is one of the world’s largest investors, managing around 767 billion euros on behalf of its insurance customers. Furthermore, our asset managers PIMCO and Allianz Global Investors manage nearly 1.9 trillion euros of third-party assets. Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological and social criteria in our business processes and investment decisions, we are among the leaders in the insurance  industry in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2021, over 155,000 employees achieved total revenues of 148.5 billion euros and an operating profit of 13.4 billion euros for the group.

These assessments are, as always, subject to the disclaimer provided below.

*Including non-consolidated entities with Allianz customers.

Press contacts

Anja Rechenberg
Allianz SE
As with all content published on this site, these statements are subject to our cautionary note regarding forward-looking statements:

Further information

Food is hope: Allianz to donate to World Central Kitchen

Allianz is donating 500,000 euros to World Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization that provides meals in response to humanitarian, climate and community crises. This donation is part of Allianz's ongoing efforts to support millions of Ukrainians fleeing their country in search of safety and refuge.

Allianz launches "MoveNow" program to move people of the next generation

Allianz is launching the MoveNow program to support and strengthen young people by facilitating access and offering opportunities to become and stay active. The mission is to prepare the next generation for the future by moving their body, mind and soul.

Allianz is committed to helping refugees in Munich

Allianz is supporting the city of Munich in its efforts to help incoming refugees from Ukraine.