Upon graduating from the American University of Beirut, Emile Cortas went to work in the University’s Alumni office. One weekend, his mother, who was well known for her home-made jams, gave him a couple of jars of her apricot jam for a professor and friend. The professor was so impressed that he advised Emile to go into the business. That summer, Emile helped his mother preserve the apricot crop, which together they packaged to present to friends and prospective customers.

Their summer experiment resulted in orders, and the business was born. Emile left his post at the university to build his own factory. In 1926, he apprenticed in Dublin with the Lambs of Ireland, famous jam-makers and old Cortas family friends. Upon his return to Lebanon, Emile imported the first of many top quality machines from Britain and started the Cortas Canning Company.

A few years later, Emile’s younger brother Michel, with a degree in chemistry from the American University of Beirut, joined Emile in the business. Emile managed business affairs while Michel took over factory production. As business grew, Cortas Bros., as the company became known, began distributing its products in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The product line expanded to include tomato paste, vegetables and fruit-based beverage syrups.

Business continued to thrive, but not without challenges. During the next 15 years, civil strife badly damaged the country’s economy, as well as the Cortas factory.

During World War II, Cortas had earned such a reputation for quality that the British Army, with a reputation for being meticulous, commissioned Cortas Bros. to supply marmalade to British troops stationed in the area. The factory expanded, placing workers on a three-shift schedule, in order to satisfy demand.

In the years just after the end of the war, the product line expanded further, and Cortas opened a tin factory in order to manufacture its own cans.

The 1970s also brought the first change in management. Founder Emile, now in his seventies, became chairman, with long-time sales manager Fadlo Khauli moving into the position of general manager. Fadlo’s vision included opening new markets in the U.S., Canada and Australia, where numerous war-displaced Lebanese had emigrated.

Today, Cortas is a publicly held company with a board of directors and regional shareholders. The son of Emile Cortas, Ramzi, was elected Chairman of the board in November, 2005.

Ramzi, who had been Sales and Marketing Manager for Cortas in the United States since 1997, assumed the responsibility of Chairman and General Manager in 2006. He continues to hold this position at the present time.