Kirkor (Krikor, Gregory) Apikoğlu was the head of a family that produced sucuk (spicy fermented sausage) in their Kayseri home for their own enjoyment as well as that of their neighbors. Their special blend of spices brought their domestic products much recognition, leading the family to begin marketing their sausages at modest prices in 1910. Following the final and most painful decade of the Ottoman Empire, the family moved to İstanbul where Apikoğlu went from traditional production and retailing to a wide-ranging trademark. In 1920, the family converted the lower floor of a waterfront villa near the old Süreyya Pasha beach in Maltepe (on the Asian side of İstanbul) into a workshop, using the upper floor as their residence. For a while their sausages and pastırma (spicy cured beef) were carried to the outlet store in Eminönü (on the European side of the city) by rowboat; it soon became clear, however, that this system would not be able to meet the growing demand driven by the delicious taste of their products.

By the 1930s, the family business was being run by Kirkor Efendi with the help of his spouse and their sons Agop and Hayk. Having learned all the subtleties of the craft from their father, these latter eventually added their initials to the name of the business. The brand was first registered in 1934 as “Agop Apikoğlu” and published, along with the company logo, in the Resmi Sınai Mülkiyet Gazetesi (Official Gazette of Industrial Property). In 1935, the business was once again officially registered, its range of products including not only sucuk but also pastırma, ham, and all kinds of preserved meat. Moreover, a motto was added to the crescent-and-star logo, one that long helped differentiate the brand from its competitors: “Renowned Turkish Sucuk [by] A. Apikoğlu of Kayseri.” The company’s current commercial registration number was obtained in 1936. A notice in the Sicilli Ticaret Gazetesi (Gazette of Registered Commerce) indicated that the Apikoğlu family then resided at No. 45, Küçükyalı Avenue, in the district of Maltepe; and that they had converted the building at No. 15, Balıkpazarı Avenue into a workshop.

The business continued to grow during those years, as indicated by the fact that the foundation was laid for a new factory in the district of Alibeyköy by the Golden Horn. The first newspaper advertisements for Apikoğlu appeared in 1939. Importantly, they made a point of stating that all their products were made of pure beef. The statement “Sold at all groceries, beware of imitations” that accompanied the advertisements clearly indicates not only the brand’s popularity but also the fact that it had already begun to be pirated at this early date.

Apikoğlu managed to stay afloat through the difficult years of World War II; according to a commercial yearbook for 1943, it was one of only seven sucuk factories in İstanbul. The text describes the company as follows: “Purveyors of sucuk, pastırma, salami, and smoked tongue.” Around the same time, a wholesale outlet was established at No. 16, Taşçılar Avenue, in the district of Eminönü.

When the family’s patriarch Kirkor Apikoğlu died in 1945, his widow Gülhatır Hanım stepped into his shoes. Having dedicated virtually her entire life to the family business, she actually moved into the factory after her spouse’s death. Her legacy consisted of hard work and courage, as well as a sense of humor. For example, sucuk were traditionally dried in the open air, where they were very vulnerable to hot and humid southwesterly winds. Thus, the sudden overnight onset of southwesterly winds required the quick intervention of a large number of helpers to carry the product indoors. Having noted that people were not too enthusiastic to get out of bed at that hour, Gülhatır Hanım found it expedient to yell “Thief! Thief!” at the top of her voice. Humor aside, her most salient qualities were decisiveness and dedication to the business. Thus, she managed to convince the owner of a recently built sucuk factory to sell her all his machinery just as he was starting production, thereby expanding her capacity as well as eliminating a future rival. Gülhatır Hanım was the key link between Apikoğlu’s founder and its next generation.

The firm had another problem, one with which it struggled for many years: product piracy. Not only did they often state, in newspaper advertisements, that the firm “has no successor or branch” authorized to use its trade name, they sometimes took out advertisements just to say so. Customers were sometimes urged to pay attention to the logo, sometimes to the name, and sometimes to the picture of the sun within the logo. There were also advertisements that sought to add value to the brand and to encourage repeat business, sometimes with very clear messages: “Always Apikoğlu,” “Seek the renowned Turkish sucuk everywhere.” And then again, sometimes the message could be quite naive and indirect: “My love, let us not forget to include the famous Turkish sucuk named Apikoğlu of Kayseri on our picnic table, for it is strong and tasty fare.”

Starting in 1955, the advertisements of the “A. & H. Apikoğlu Brothers & Company” began to make frequent and regular appearances in the press. Both the firm’s technological advances and its new products were publicized in this manner. Thus it was through advertisements that kavurma (meat confit) was announced with great fanfare, and that salami produced with the latest manufacturing systems was introduced to the public. Moreover, Apikoğlu dispensed advice as to how its products should be consumed, instilling habits that persist to this day. The firm declared, for instance, that “a more than adequate substitute for meat, Apikoğlu sucuk” is both delicious and nutritious with eggs, noodles, or rice. As urban life gained speed during the 1960s, the “renowned Turkish sucuk” carved space for itself among sandwiches both fresh and grilled.

It is for this reason that many masters of the pen dwelled on Apikoğlu products, notably Haluk Dursun in his İstanbul’da Yaşama Sanatı (The Art of Living in İstanbul) as well as the poet İlhan Berk who described the district of Galata in the minutest details. With some humor, Musa Anter included Apikoğlu among the three most important sons of Kayseri, while Orhan Pamuk listed the name among his clearest childhood memories. Indeed, anyone who briefly toured İstanbul during the 1960s and 70s was bound to encounter the name Apikoğlu time and again. From cinemas and theaters to billboards in such public squares as Taksim and Eminönü, the firm used numerous means of publicity to assure itself a place in the city’s visual memory. A promotional campaign offering a chance to participate in a lottery to anyone presenting three Apikoğlu labels was announced at the same time as the new radio hour with the great minstrel (Aşık) Veysel.

In 1955, following the stormiest September in Turkey’s history, Apikoğlu products made their way onto the shelves of the supermarket Migros Türk. Another indication of the company’s growing business was the appearance of family members among the country’s top taxpayers.

Apikoğlu became a member of the Association of Sucuk and Pastırma Producers, founded in 1967 to protect the interests of the sector. The two heads of the company retired in 1975, but they had a ready successor: their nephew Dırtat Ağca who had been working by their side since 1967 took over the firm, the third generation to lead it. In 1976, the joint stock company Etsan Gıda Sanayii was founded in order to strengthen Apikoğlu’s institutional structure. Now the doyen of the industry, Dırtat Ağca continues to oversee the selection and butchering of animals and the production of sucuk with the same fastidiousness that he brought to the business forty-eight years ago. In 1980, his position at the helm of the company was taken over by Vahan Kartallıoğlu, son-in-law of Bercuhi Apikoğlu Ağca. He completed the construction of an integrated meat processing plant in Tuzla in 1986. A 15,000 sq.m. building on a 45,000 sq.m. plot of land, this plant has secured its builder an important place as a milestone in carrying the brand into the future. Vahan Kartallıoğlu died in 1995 and was replaced by Berç Kartallıoğlu who headed the firm until 2008. With seventy-five different products manufactured in its new plant, Apikoğlu became known as Turkey’s oldest brand of processed meat.

During the 2000s, at a time when countries of the European Union were reluctant to import meat products from Turkey, Apikoğlu was able to document its high standards of quality and made inroads into the kitchens of numerous respected airlines. The birth and development of the brand also attracted interest, and Apikoğlu became one of only ten Turkish brands described in the book Histoire de marques by Jean Watin-Augouard, an account of the histories of the world’s most prominent brands

Under the watchful eyes of the thirdgeneration family elder Dırtat Ağca, the firm is led today by members of the fourth generation, Kevork Kartallıoğlu and Ali Ağca.

During the past century, the Apikoğlu brand endured all the difficulties that could have befallen a family living in Turkey, and still managed to enter its second century strong, high-quality, well-respected, and delicious. The taste of its products makes people “relive the fun times spent with their families during their childhood,” as the well-known journalist Hıncal Uluç wrote, a taste whose secret lies in the wish to preserve not only a family tradition but also a cultural legacy unique to Anatolia. Beyond meticulousness in the selection of finished products, this is the century-long story of a family for whom their products were every bit as meaningful as the baklava of Antep or the carpets of Hereke... Against those who opt for heat-treated “sucuk-like” products manufactured with less effort and at lower cost, Apikoğlu continues to insist on producing fermented “Turkish sucuk,” transforming their traditions and accumulated knowledge into a formula for great taste.


Apikoğlu-Genel MERKEZ(HQ) Tepeören Mah. Akdeniz Sok. No:4 Tuzla / İSTANBUL

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