There are many things to be associated with Spain. For some it would be corrida, for dance lovers it would obviously be flamenco and for many of us pleasure seekers - white sandy beaches. For gourmet cuisine lovers however, the first thing that comes to mind must be – apart from top quality Spanish wine – world class charcuterie and meat. Spanish jamon is famous around the world for its dryness and exquisite taste. And the hero of our today’s reading – a Spanish company named Carnicas Serrano (the Serrano Meat) is adding its part to the legend being one of the major meat and charcuterie producers in Spain.
What should Spain be proud of?
There are many world class meats that take its origins from Spain – there’s chorizo, a dry, usually spicy sausage made from pork, paprika and various spices. There’s jamon iberico – dry ham made from iberian pig. And there’s also the famous jamon serrano – literally translated as the mountain ham is called that way due to the long process of drying that takes place mostly in drying sheds build at higher elevation. It is easy to understand that when Blas Serrano Castelar was starting a business back in 1959 he decided to go in the meat industry. His name could not be merely a coincidence. It seems that it was meant to be.
A brief history of the company
The company has more than 50 years of tradition but it has come a long way from the time in 1959 when Blas Serrano Castelar with his wife and two children opened a small factory in the area of 150 square meters in Valencia. It took them just 15 years to emerge from their original headquarters and move to industrial zone Fuente del Jarro in Paterna, 15 kilometers outside Valencia. These new facilities had 4 thousand square meters and have been shortly filled with top notch equipment needed to fully utilize its area. During the following years the company several times felt the need for further expansion. By 1991 the acreage of the company was 11 thousand square meters – Carnicas Serrano also opened a network of own branches around the country. It also became the first meat company in the Valencia Community to gain an ability to export its goods outside of the European Union, with Russia as its main target.
Spanish charcuterie around the world
Indeed, the international focus is playing a major part in the firm’s activity. Currently more than 20 per cent of the sales revenue is generated by the foreign market. Serrano is a very strong brand in the European markets, as it is associated with what’s best about Spanish meat – the highest quality and an unrepeatable taste. In fact, most of the products that go abroad are the most typical Spanish charcuterie – it’s ham and its sausage – chorizo. Lately, in 2007, the company launched a series of products called TapaSpain, designed and marketed specifically for European customers. These products have been a great success for the firm on some major European markets, such as Germany, France and Great Britain, just to name a few. But one would be wrong thinking that only Europeans are fond of Spanish cuisine. As a matter of fact, Carnicas Serrano was the first Spanish meat company to establish a cooperation with Cuba to serve as a catering supplier to all supermarkets and hotel chains.
Adjusting to market’s needs
When asked about its key customers, the firm avoids straight and easy answers. Indeed it seems that there is a vast duality between the end consumer who makes a final decision to buy the company’s product, and supply chains that ensure the aforementioned customer has the opportunity to buy them. The people at Carnicas Serrano explain – both group are equally important and both are treated the same way – they are being listened to very carefully. Carnicas Serrano is an innovative enterprise and is always trying to change its offer to match the demand of the market. The company is extremely proud of its R&D department that is constantly working on developing new products, which must instantly address the needs of the customers.
A variety of products
Currently there are several major groups of products available on the market. The most important one still seems to be the mountain ham, jamon serrano, which is available both in slices and as a complete bone-in ham. Then there is a whole variety of Spanish typical sausages, with chorizo being the most known of them. The company also offers a ‘one minute and ready’ products, mostly pork fillets in many different flavors. Last but not least, one can also find interest in sandwich-ready meats, offered in a variety of types and flavors. A different look can also be made at the company’s offer. There are products that are mostly traditional – like jamon serrano and chorizo. There is an innovative line of sandwich-ready products mixing fish and meat flavor. Finally there is a line of products called Sabrosanos – it’s one of the most successful lines found in the offer. It’s goal is to offer traditional products, but with more focus on the health aspect. Traditional Spanish meat like hamburgers, pork sausage or blood sausage are not the healthiest, to say the least. Carnicas Serrano was looking for a solution that would keep the exquisite taste but alter the nutrition in these products. The answer came with Sabrosanos, which offers the same products yet with less fat and less calories. The company was awarded a NAOS prize from Spanish Ministry of Health – it’s a prize awarded to companies whose action help promote healthy lifestyle and fight obesity among the society.
Constant devotion to quality
Carnicas Serrano started out as a family business and each year has been steadily increasing its payroll. Nowadays the company employs more than 250 people and said increase doesn’t seem to stop any time soon. Any of these employees is given perfect conditions to develop their skills as the company have recently implemented a Total Quality Management plan in order to maximize the efficiency of its internal processes and guarantee the best quality of customer service. On the other hand, Carnicas Serrano is constantly working on improving its infrastructure and equipment. In 1999, the company installed the so called ‘White Rooms’ in its production line. These ‘White Rooms’ received its name because of perfect hygiene conditions they offer. But by then the firm’s devotion to quality and high hygiene standards has been already recognized, as Carnicas Serrano has been awarded an ISO:9002 certificate in 1997. The company was the first meat producer in the Valencia Community to receive said certificate.
Jamon in the time of crisis
The business model of the company can be described as a resultant of four variables. First, we have the health aspect and people who are seeking traditional tastes with less fat and more nutrition. There are traditional customers, concerned more with the taste, their pleasure an their well-being. On the other hand there are customers looking for comfort and convenience – for these customers the food must be - above all - easy to prepare. And finally there’s a fourth variable, price, which is gaining more attention nowadays because of the crisis. The offer of Carnicas Serrano must be diversified enough to satisfy the needs of all groups of customers. Fortunately, the food industry wasn’t that much affected by the crisis, as compared to other sectors of economy. This leads us to believe that the people working at Carnicas Serrano shouldn’t worry about their future. People have been enjoying traditional Spanish meat and charcuterie for ages now and some flavors are never out of date. It’s a good thing that nowadays we can benefit from the existence of such companies as Carnicas Serrano and enjoy a delicious piece of jamon serrano in our own countries. Although, it seems that it tastes best accompanied by a dish of olives and a glass of dry wine, on some sea view terrace bathed in Spanish red hot sun.
Written by Łukasz Światowiec