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CLAINSA expands into processing, develops hake, croaker exports.

Uruguayan company expands trawler fleet, acquires processing plant, plans strong supply of hake blocks and wave of new product introductions for US and European markets.

Until just last year, it was strictly a fishing outfit. But today CLAINSA Fish Industries, Montevideo, Uruguay, has become a world-class processor with a state-of-the-art onshore plant and a fleet including three recently purchased Atlantic-class fishing trawlers.

CLAINSA is now a leading processor of frozen hake, and plans to take on the international market with both blocks and interleaves fillets. For the Asian market, meanwhile, it is already producing whole frozen croakers in a whole round form. But look out! The company is coming out with a whole range of innovative products it promises will "delight fish lovers around the world," reports Jorge Azar, the firm's commercial director.

It has been a rapid evolution for CLAINSA. As of mid-1992, the company was engaged only in the harvesting of whiting/hake and croaker, with a fleet of 15 trawlers -- nine for croaker, six for whiting/hake. It could export frozen products only by contracting with local plants to process them, and sold the rest of its catch to other plants to process for their own use.

Strategy for Growth

But all that changed, beginning in August 1992, with a series of strategic acquisitions.

* August 1992. Purchase of the Nathan Cummings, an Atlantic-class trawler, from Fishery Products International (FPI) of Canada.

* October 1992. Purchase by international bid of a former state-owned fish processing plant (ILPE) from the Uruguayan government under its privatization program.

* July 1993. Purchase of two more Atlantic-class trawlers, the Atlantic-class trawlers, the Atlantic Peggy and the Atlantic Ruthann, from FPI.

CLAINSA's strategic plans involved more than just acquisition. Between October 1992 and this past June, the company completely remodeled nearly all of the 18,000-square meter plant, installing state-of-the-art equipment for production of blocks and interleaved blocks, along with processing and quality control systems previously unheard of in the Uruguayan fish and seafood industry.

Raw materials harvested by CLAINSA's fleet of nine whiting/hake and nine croaker vessels amount to about 30,000 metric tons of whiting and hake and 15,000 tons of croaker a year. From these, the company is producing a whole range of products. In hake alone, it now offers fillet blocks in a choice of pin-bone-in or boneless, regular or defatted, and interleaved.

High-quality hake blocks are now supplied to further-processors in both the US and Europe. Headed and gutted hake are also available, and the company has begun producing custom-branded retail products. In croaker, besides the whole rounds exported to the Far East, the-company now offers pan-ready headed and gutted for the US and European markets.

Experience Counts

Although processing is a new departure for CLAINSA, the company has put together an experienced production team under Luis Pazos, plant director. The plant itself, built about 20 years ago, was designed for fish processing in the first place, and had been well-maintained by the old state fishery operation.

But CLAINSA went ahead and remodeled 10,000 square meters of the plant anyway, completely replacing its electrical, sanitary and sewage systems, and also installing entirely new refrigeration tubing and insulation. Much of the processing equipment bears the name of Baader, one of the oldest and most respected companies in the business. The plant, incidentally, has the perfect location: right in front of the Port of Montevideo.

In its vessel operations department, CLAINSA has a staff of engineers with more than 15 years' experience in the industry. Its trawlers, ranging from 31 to 47 meters, are all registered with the Uruguayan National Fishing Institute, and are run as tight ships. From years of supplying raw material to other processors, the company is well aware of the importance of assuring freshness and proper handling. "We believe that the final quality of the products depends very much on this stage of the process," remarks Azar. Between the ships and the processing plant, CLAINSA has a payroll of 950 personnel, all working to make sure the company's products are top-grade.

Modern Production

The moment fresh fish arrives at the plant, it is re-iced, graded according to freshness, and palletized in plastic boxes. It is then transported immediately to a 0 |degrees~ C cold store.

Raw material is emptied from boxes onto conveyor lines only after it has reached the cold store. It is then conveyed to a washing tank, while the empty boxes are sent to an automatic box cleaner. Once the raw material emerges from the washing tank, it is loaded onto another conveyor belt, which takes it to the classification station where it is graded by size and weight. Graded raw material is then delivered to the heads of the processing lines, each of which is geared to work with a particular size classification.

Each of the processing lines includes the following stages:

* Deheading, with a Baader 417.

* Filleting, with a Baader 188.

* Skinning with a Baader 51, or defatting with a TRIO-FDS.

* Trimming, frame filling and packing for the plate freezer.

* Individual control and weighing at each end of the line.

Six processing lines are devoted to regular fillets and two to defatted fillets, and two additional lines, one each for regular and defatted, will be installed by December.

CLAINSA has seven plate freezers, enough to handle all of the company's products at the same time, and all products are conveyed to the freezers as soon as they come off the line. Once frozen, they go onto another conveyor that takes them to the packaging line. Each product is then deframed and packed according to its own standards.

All stages of processing are overseen, not only by supervisors, but also by a Total Control Network linked to a central computer at the Production Department which records data from each stage of the process. For example, electronic scales are linked to a set of Logical Automatic Controllers, which feed data on raw material weights to a plant-wide network of other computers strategically-located in various areas of production. It is a system that allows for the expansion of points to be controlled, and all the information from the networked computers is also centralized at the Production Department's primary computer.

Once the products are packed, they are stored at 25 |degrees~ C in the company's cold store for finished products, which has a capacity of 3,500 cubic meters divided into three chambers -- all of them monitored by a computerized thermographic register. (The 0 |degrees~ fresh fish cold store has a capacity of 500 tons in two chambers.)

Quality Control

When it comes to quality control, CLAINSA does mean business! Under Dr. Daniel Grieco, its director of quality control, the company is now instituting a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) program, as has been recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Committee on Food Hygiene and is already widely practiced at the most advanced food processing plants in the world. HACCP means concentrating attention on the most critical areas of processing, where things are most likely to go wrong and cause the greatest harm -- and then making sure they don't. CLAINSA has mobilized all its material and human resources, including the highly-qualified staff of its plant laboratory, to implement the quality-control program.

CLAINSA's operation is registered with the Uruguayan Ministry of Agriculture and Fish -- the National Institute of Fisheries (INAPE) -- as conforming with official sanitation standards. (Sanitary certificate registration number is C-29). The plant also conforms to EC (European Community) standard 91/493 on sanitation and hygiene. Dr. Grieco's department (fax 598-2-949555) is at the service of clients seeking any further information.

Innovation the Watchword

When CLAINSA promises product innovation, it doesn't mean just packing products under its clients' retail brand names, although that is certainly a major initiative right now.

"CLAINSA plans to make a difference with the development of new species that have not been commercially exploited up to the present time," explains Azar. "Each of the species and products under development has qualities that make it ideal for today's dynamic markets that are looking for new products. Furthermore, CLAINSA has a competitive edge in developing these products: its fleet, which harvests the greater part of the resources used for them. Once the marketing of the products begins, CLAINSA will also be able to assure continuity of supply from resources of great potentiality."

Croaker fillets lead the list of new products. An "exotic" species (the scientific name is Micropogonias furnieri), croaker has until now been underutilized, shipped to China and neighboring countries in frozen whole round form as an economical commodity. But when CLAINSA's Product Development Department looked into the species, its findings were astonishing.

Processed into fillets, it turns out, croaker is much like salmon in taste and texture, with an eye appeal that seems sure to win over consumers. CLAINSA plans to shift a portion of its croaker catch to fillet production soon. Meanwhile, CLAINSA is already marketing pan-ready headed and gutted croaker under its clients' brand names as a convenient item for home cooking.

Dogfish is another species slated by CLAINSA for development. Its extremely white and boneless meat lends itself to excellent final products. Kingclip, another South Atlantic regional species that has hardly been harvested until now, is being developed by CLAINSA into top-of-the-line products. And sea trout fillets, another new product from CLAINSA, not only fill a growing demand, but also offer the advantage of coming from a resource that is -- unlike that for some other species -- itself growing.

For more information about these and other potential new products, buyers can reach Azar at fax no. 598-2-949555. Like everyone else at CLAINSA, what he wants most in the world is the kind of customer satisfaction that comes only from producing products people really want, and producing them to the highest standards of quality.
COPYRIGHT 1993 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Hake Company on the Rise; CLAINSA Fish Industries
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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