Printer Friendly

Spain's growing frozen food industry: in the right place at the right time?

Spain's Growing Frozen Food Industry: In The Right Place at The Right Time? The future is not only manana, it is also very much today! While long lunch hours and sleepy siestas still exist for many Iberians, it's long, hard work days and dreams of expansion among the nation's leading FF players.

The way to find out about the character of an industry is not to visit plant and distribution centers, but to find out what people actually eat -- in their homes and in restaurants.

In Spain, most people leave the real eating until 9 P.M. or later and take a very long lunch break from 2:30-4:30 P.M. for a snack and a rest! Few women work, compared with their sisters in other European countries. And the woman at home is expected to be all-purpose cook ...and a lot of other things besides! American women would not accept it. Few women in Britain have ever considered such a role.

All eyes are on Spain now, as one of the newest members of the European Economic Community (EEC), and the one with most places to go. Visiting Iberia is like stepping back into an older, less sophisticated world than one finds in most of Western Europe or the U.S.A. The main streets of Madrid, like the Gran Via, the Calle Serrano, and, of course, the Paseo de la Costellana, north of the Prado, are impressive. But the back streets in the outer suburbs are primitive and often unmade, all still rather like the images of Spain evoked by Hemingway in the 1930's.

It is not the most propitious climate in which to plant a modern food industry. Nonetheless one is undeniably there and growing -- and it is no more primitive than those of neighboring countries, like France and Italy. But it is not perhaps a culture in which to develop a dynamic market for "ready meals" (platos congelados) -- although one is certainly there...and growing.

At home, the women still cook at mid-day as well as in the evening, so they do not buy meals in packets (still about 5.43% of total volume).

Moreover, unlike their counterparts in France, Germany and England, they are not subjected to a media bombardment about the cuisines (in or out of packets) of other countries, and that perhaps provides the key for adventurous companies seeking to make themselves known to the Spanish public.

Anyone planning to develop anything new in Spain must be prepared to spend heavily on direct media to the public, or on the airwaves. However, only four or five of the frozen food companies here are at all visible on TV, and not much in women's magazines.

Public relations of the market-building variety is almost non-existent. The TV advertisers are: Pescanova, Nestle/Findus, McCain, Delfin, Frudesa. And these names will come up again and again in looking at aspects of the Iberian market.

Fish Is The Dish

What is also very evident in Spanish food culture is the all-pervading influence of fish. Spain is a country that almost lives on fish. It is certainly well-endowed with coastlines, ports and fish distribution facilities. Vigo, Bilbao and Santander are major ports in the north, but there are hundreds of small docks supplying the inland cities with Atlantic, Mediterranean and North Sea varieties.

Two-thirds of an average restaurant menu features fish and shellfish -- and the influence of hake (merluzza) sourced from local waters as well as those of the South Atlantic is powerful. So, while popularly served as thick succulent steaks, it is not surprising to find hake loins are among the most recent lines introduced by Pescanova.

The langoustines, gambas and shrimp are a joy to see on display and even more so to eat. So it was a shock back at New York's Kennedy Airport to find shrimp listed at $2 -- for one! In Spanish restaurants one can have six giant grilled langoustines for psts 450 (about $4). And a Madrid langoustine is to a Kennedy Airport shrimp what a turtle is to a tortoise!

Just how important variety and culinary skill are to the Spanish is illustrated in an unlikely side street restaurant called Zarcost in the Calle Mendez Valdes, a few steps from the Plaza del Conde del Valle du Suchil and about a 10-minute walk from the Gran Via.

This reporter went there twice in the same week, first for the sea bass (lubina) baked in salt; next for the rape fish, not in salt but grilled in a green sauce.

Ask for a steak in most Spanish restaurants and the look of pain on the waiter's face tells you everything: "How could any really civilized diner eat all that fat, when so much fish is available?"

Shops and Shopping

In case this conveys an impression of mere bucolic indulgence, far removed from the worlds of Kroger, A&P, Sainsbury, Uniprix and Aldi, take a look around the supermarkets of Prixca and Continente, at the Corte Ingles department stores and the Al Campo hypermarket in the Vaguada.

Vaguada, to the north of central Madrid, is possibly one of Spain's largest shopping centers, a combination of mall and hypermarket. Nothing read from the printed page quite prepares one for the first sight of Vaguada. It looks like a glass version of the Sydney Opera House from the outside, but inside is dominated by the Al Campo hypermarcados, at least half of which is stocked with fresh food. The fish is merchandised on ice. But the displays of fruit too are truly mouth-watering; not tidy, shining and hygienically presented like similar displays in American supermarkets, but all very desirable...and appetizing.

Spain, of course, is bounded by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and this has proved to be a big bonus for fish and food companies like Pescanova and Compesca.

In Al Campo, the frozen food department is laid out U.S. style, with two rows of open display cabinets, flanked by a row of glass-door uprights and a row of chill cabinets on the other side. Almost 50% of the uprights is devoted to ice cream, but mainly packaged blocks designed for advertising rather than eating. (Frankly, it looked strangely old-fashioned to this correspondent, brought up in the European tradition, but now spoiled by the American preference for "real" ice cream in 2/3 litre tubs, ready for scooping into a dish.)

Not surprisingly here, this section is dominated by the big multi-national brands, like Camy (Nestle), Frigo (Unilever) and Miko, but there in the middle of it all was, of all things, Ross choc ices! Not "El Rosso", but good old Grimsby, U.K.-based Ross.

And there they were again in the frozen food cabinets, with Arroz Tres Delicias, cheek by jowl with Serpexa, Delfin, Frudesa, Pescanova, and even Young's lenguado bonne! Ross-Youngs? Did all this happen in Spain before or after Ross-Young's absorption by Sir Hector Laing's United Biscuit group?

It doesn't really matter. There they are, all the way from England, and demonstrating that Spain is not just about escaping from the wet, cold climate of Britain to Europe's equivalent of Florida, but a business opportunity as well.

And here too is the vegetable specialist, Frudesa, with polybags of mixed vegetables and pasta. Like Green Giant in the U.S. and Ross in England, it is moving the public away from commodity-based vegetables toward gourmet vegetable combinations that will take this sector out of the doldrums.

Bonduelle is another European vegetable packer much in evidence here; so on a lesser scale is Vivagel. For France and the French industry, Spain ought to be a major opportunity if only because it's right next door.

Speaking of mixtures and Frudesa, it is of some marketing significance that this company, like Pescanova, has taken a step toward the marketing of authentic cuisine by offering polybags and paella ingredients. It seems like they're selling everything except the rice. (But even so the fish specialists have most of the space!)

Spanish tonnage figures are just as suspect as those of other countries, and too many documents purporting to describe the market in Spain appear designed to plead special causes or to defend special sectors. One such document shows "unprepared fish" at 250,000 MT or 54.34% by volume, and frozen vegetables at 125,000 MT or 27.18% by volume, yet the report says that it is "important to note the great weight of frozen vegetables in the domestic market."

What the printed figures actually suggest is that it is important to understand that "unprepared fish" and prepared fish together represent 58.68% of the market by volume or 270,000 MT.

There does not appear to be a distinct market for chilled foods, which is not surprising when one considers the established network of fresh fish and vegetable distribution and the sheer professionalism of retail displays.


The Spanish frozen food industry is rather less dominated by Nestle and Unilever than some other European countries. In the supermarket cabinets, the brands that stand out are those of Pescanova, Frudesa and Delfin. But the international labels are becoming visible now, including those of Nestle (Findus, notably with Cocina Ligera, the Spanish version of Lean Cuisine), Unilever (with Frigo ice cream and few Iglo vegetables imported from other European operations), Bonduelle and Vivagel.

McCain is also on the scene with potato specialities, and there are now the U.K. brands of Ross and Young representing the United Biscuits group (itself rumored to be a target for unwelcome takeover bids). All totaled there are 120 production companies in Spain, boasting sales of approximately 220,000 M ptas. Some 13,000 workers are employed and annual investments run about 7,000 or 8,000 M ptas.

Clearly Spain belongs to the Spanish, and domestic brands dominate the business. Unfortunately, Spanish companies are reticent about themselves, which makes analysis and interpretation difficult, let alone description.

Pescanova No. 1

Pescanova is the dominant brand with a 25% share of the market and a range that includes most varieties of finfish, shellfish, vegetables and ready meals. The food division of this multi-national giant is led by Jesus Garcia, in whose Madrid offices in the fashionable Calle Serrano, this reporter discussed business trends. Also in attendance was Tomas Curto, the new marketing manager.

In the last six months the company has launched a range of Pescanova ice cream, packed for them in Germany by Dr. Oetker, hake loins and monkfish loins to join an already impressive list of frozen fish, and other lines that help to substantiate the Pescanova advertising slogan: "Lo Bueno, Sale Bien."

With a strong base in the fishing industry -- factories at Vigo, in Galicia, on the Atlantic coast, plus a separate Pescanova company, based on freezing at sea -- the firm has similarities with the old Ross Group in Britain, but is nearer to the U.K.'s Birds Eye in product range and operations.

Quick Frozen Foods International asked Jesus Garcia if the company's eyes were on the European market rather than on those of Spanish-speaking countries in South America. He replied categorically that European opportunities took precedence. Nevertheless, operations have been opened in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina, and there is a Pescanova factory now in Chacabuco (Chile) processing Pescanova's South Atlantic catch, which is frozen at sea.

Firmly believing that sea-frozen fish results in a better product in the cabinets than fish frozen from quayside landings, the Pescanova head talked enthusiastically about the company's use of Merluzza Australis (hake caught in the water of the South Pacific).

Hake is the main white fish variety landed in Spain and represents more than 75% of all frozen fish sales. Pescanova could be to international hake marketing what the Ross group once was to British cod marketing. Chasing the hake in southern waters has certainly taken them a long way from Spain and the markets of the north.

But Spain's new marketing Armada could still be commercially-led northwards into European countries, leaving the markets of Latin America to be developed nationally and internationally.

In Spain itself, Pescanova has its own network of distribution to retail outlets and is vertically integrated in a way that is now becoming unusual in European food marketing. In Britain, Birds Eye once moved this way, but eventually divested itself of distribution cold stores and depots. It was clear from one or two conversations with Spanish industry leaders that vertical integration is one way of keeping out foreign competition which will have to invest heavily in its own distribution to get products to the public.

The second brand in the Spanish market -- and to vegetables what Pescanova is to fish -- Frudesa is another privately-owned company led by Juan Cordoner, a past president of Fafpas. Frudesa vegetables in polybags are seen everywhere, and the company also packs for other European labels.

Based in L'Alcudia, Valencia, the packer has plants in Navarre and elsewhere. A map in the office at the main refrigeration supplier shows that the bulk of freezing capacity vegetables is found in the area of Navarre and Valencia. (Frigoscandia has supplied 90 tunnels to 40 companies in the past two years, and 50% of them were for vegetables.)

Vegetables processed by Frudesa include cauliflower, green beans, sweet corn, asparagus, paprika, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and carrots. The company also has a factory in Valencia (Claudia de Carlet), where a new tunnel was installed by Frigoscandia in 1987 for pre-fried lines such as calamari. In the same year, similar tunnels were installed for Pycasa in Madrid (whose La Cocenera brand is spreading fast), Frinca S.A. in Samora, Celtimar S.A. in La Coruna, Productos Maggi S.A. in Valladolid, Frigorificos Delfin S.A. in Madrid, Frigo S.A. in Madrid, McCain in Burgos and Maresko in Barcelona, among others.

In the meantime, Frudesa has put in Frigoscandia tunnels for vegetables in Valencia, joining Bonduelle Espana, S.A., Horbasa, Congelados de Talavera, Vegajardin, McCain, and others who were doing the same thing in what seems to have been a period of great activity for the Swedish manufacturer of mechanical freezers.

Figures published in 1986, based on a study by the government-based IRESCO organization, suggest that taken together there has been a remarkable growth in FF production in the last few years.

Collectively, the companies listed below account for more than 90% of branded frozen food sales in Spain. Sales to other outlets (i.e. catering) are too difficult to quantify at this stage.

A Year Later

Here's how those companies were described in 1985 in an independent marketing study:

Pescanova, as already reported, is by a wide margin Spain's leading supplier of branded frozen fish and fish dishes with important and growing shares in other sectors of the frozen foods market. Based in Vigo, Pontevedra, the company is 20% owned by Imperial Cold Storage Company and has several subsidiaries of its own, both in Spain and overseas (including Ireland, Scotland, Guinea, South Africa, Australia, Chili, Uruguay and Argentina).

Its Spanish subsidiaries are: Pescanova Canarias S.A., Hasenosa, Frinova, Diprocosa, Candelesa, Boanova, Boapesca.

Frinova was established in 1985. Situated in Porrino (Vigo), it concentrates on fish-based prefried buttered/breaded meals and is reported to have the largest ready meal manufacturing plant in Spain with an annual capacity of over 6,000 tons.

Pescanova, S.A. (Spain) group sales in 1988 amounted to psts 30,000 mn (up 10% on 1987). Profits in 1988 were psts 859 mn. Pescanova group sales last year amounted to over 50,000 mn pts.

Luis Suner (Avidesa)

Headquartered in Alcira, Valencia, Avidesa is a family-owned enterprise manufacturing a wide range of frozen foods from ice cream to vegetables and ready meals. Frozen poultry is the company's specialization and it is Spain's major supplier of this item. The Avidesa manufacturing plant was severely damaged by floods which affected the Valencia region in 1982, but the company has completed the renewal of its damaged facilities, and has increased manufacturing capacity.

Avidesa is one of the few frozen food manufacturers to have its own wholly owned network of 60 regional warehouses from which it distributes around 75% of its total sales to some 50,000 outlets. Company sales amounted to psts 17,000 mn in 1984, up from psts 15,000 mn in 1983, with a positive cash flow of psts 1,000 mn. The workforce numbered 600 permanent staff and 300 part-time workers employed during harvest time.

The company markets its products under two brand names, Avidesa and Froxa.


Derivados Lacteos y Alimenticios S.A., which sells ice cream, yogurt and frozen foods, is 99.7% owned by Nestle. The ice cream products are marketed under the Camy brand, yogurt and desserts under the Chambourcy name and frozen foods under the Findus label.

Sales in 1984 amounted to psts 14,648 mn, up slightly on 1983 volume of psts 13.242 mn, while profits were psts 232 mn. Exports, at psts 65 mn in 1984, were down from psts 216 mn in 1983. Permanent staff in 1984 numbered 1,055.

Nestle also holds 86.7% of Horticola de Badajoz S.A. (Horbasa) -- a company established relatively recently with investment incentives from the Extremadura Regional Industrial Development Fund, which holds the remaining 13.3% of the company. Horbasa is slowly building up production of frozen vegetables such as beans, peppers and sweetcorn, which are all locally grown. Annual sales of psts 414 mn were reported. Horbasa manufactures for its parent company's Findus brand and under contract for independent distributors' own brands.


A privately owned company based in L'Alcudia, Valencia, Frudesa produces a range of frozen vegetables and vegetable dishes, ready meals and fish. It is the clear market leader in vegetables.

The Frudesa group has two frozen food manufacturing companies: Frudesa, which produces vegetable products, and Decasa, which packs ready meals. The Company has shares in at least 10 frozen food distribution companies spread throughout the country.

Turnover for 1984 was estimated at psts 10,000 mn and exports at psts 359.5 mn. A total of 231 permanent staff were employed in 1984. Frudesa products are marketed under three brand names: Frudesa (vegetables), Dalva (fish) and Delfrio.

Preparados y Congelados Alimenticios S.A., Pycasa, was until May 1985 a 50:50 joint venture company, owned by General Mills Inc. of the U.S.A. and the Spanish Iturbe group. But following the acquisition of the Iturbe share by its U.S. partner, the company is now 100% owned by General Mills. Situated close to Madrid, it turns out a wide range of frozen food products including fish and vegetables, but is particularly strong in prepared meals. All are manufactured under the La Cocinera brand name.

Sales in 1984 amounted to psts 3,500 mn, of which psts 15 mn were exported. A total of 424 permanent staff were employed by the comany in 1985, with 40 part time workers to cope with seasonal fluctuations.


Based in Roales del Pan in Zamora, Ibergel is 35% owned by the regional savings bank, 30% by an industrial development fund and the remainder by private shareholders. It mainly packs prepared fish and seafood products, ready meals and vegetables. All are sold under the Frinca brand name for the retail market, and Catergel for the catering sector.

Sales in 1984 rose 46% to psts 2,385 mn, with profits of psts 100 mn. The company invested at least psts 300 mn in new product development and expanding freezer capacity.

Alimentos Congelados S.A.

Situated in Marcilla, in the center of Navarra, an important vegetable growing region, Alimentos Congelados specializes in the production of frozen locally grown vegetables such as peas, beans, artichokes and peppers. Principal shareholders are the Bank of Bilbao (25%), and the Regional Industrial Development Fund.

Sales in 1984 amounted to psts 2,062 mn, up 35% in 1983. Some psts 240 mn of new investments were made in 1984, at which time permanent staff numbered 720 and part-time harvest workers 170.

McCain Espana S.A.

A 100% subsidiary of McCain of Canada, McCain Espana manufactures a wide range of potato products and a limited line of fish, meat and poultry-based ready meals. Sales in 1984 amounted to psts 1,700 mn, while planned investments for 1985 were psts 325 mn.

Frigo S.A.

A 100% subsidiary of Unilever Espana S.A., Frigo produces ice cream and markets a range of frozen foods under the Iglo brand name. In 1985 the company did not manufacture frozen foods, with the exception of ice cream. It brought in product from other manufacturers for sale under its own label, but was believed to be seeking to acquire a FF manufacturing company to enable it to exercise closer quality control. Today, it has a plant in Madrid.


Industrias del Frio y Alimentacion is a state-owned company forming part of Endiasa, which is the food division of INI, the state holding company for industry. The outfit markets a range of vegetables (50% of it output), ready meats and fish under the Tundra brand name. Turnover in 1981 amounted to psta 1,150 mn.


Victoria-based Helados y Congelados S.A. is 25% owned by Safral, the holding company for the French Ortiz-Miko group. The remaining 75% is held by a Spanish investment firm, S.A. de Alimentacion, linked to the Banco de Bilbao.

The company manufactures ice cream at its factory in Alava, but buys its frozen vegetables from Alimentos Congelados S.A. These two groups of products are marketed under the Miko and Vivagel brand names respectively. Sales in 1984 amounted to psta 3,500 mn, while exports reached psts 169 mn, representing increases of 16% respectively over 1983.

The estimated market shares of concerns seen in the accompanying table -- originally published in 1985 -- cannot be taken all that seriously in 1989, especially as companies like Serpesca, Compesca, and Delfin, now very evident in the supermarket cabinets, are not mentioned. But nothing very much has been published in Spain and like all national figures in this industry, they need to be taken with a pinch of sodium (preferably not derived from a frozen product).

Companies whose "low-profile" approach to marketing and communication insures low visibility in the media, are: Compesca, based in Santander; Serpesca, based at the dead center of Spain just outside Madrid; Congelados Krupemar, S.A. and Frigorificas Delfin.


Serpesca is not one of those names that appear over and over again in the marketing charts, but it is certainly visible in the cabinets of Al Campo and Corte Ingles and is said by its own management to be the second brand of fish in Spanish supermarkets. The company was started about three years ago, although its principals claim more than 25 years of "professional labor" in the frozen food sector. Its president, Senor Mozos, from whom the group derives its names Distribucciones Mozos, claims to have achieved a volume in excess of $20 million (psts 2280 M).

The company packs under the Serpesca brand an all-embracing range that is nevertheless dominated by pescados and mariscos (fish and seafood). On the back page of its price list, one finds "precocinados" (pre-fried fish), and "verduras" (vegetables), but before that come paella ingredients and, right up front, ice cream ('bloque helado sabor Nata, Nata Fresa, Nata-Chocolate, Tres Gustos, Vanilla, Chocolate and Vanilla).

The cold stores and production areas, shortly to be supplemented by a new processing factory, are situated literally at the center of Spain about two miles from Los Angeles -- the church with the huge statue of Christ with arms outstretched, that was the model for the great figure that overlooks the harbor at Rio de Janerio.

In character too, the company is right at the center of the psyche of Spain...proud, individualistic, self-confident and quite indifferent to the plush, smooth approach of the giant multi-nationals. In short, a little rough around the edges, but going places.

About companies like Compesca, Delfin, Pycasa and Arvida there is little to report here because their low-profile approach provides scant information to draw from. But about one company with increasing visibility there is a great deal to be said: Krupermar.

In every successful industry, there is always a low-profile trader whose wheeling and dealing behind the scenes creates a momentum that exceeds its visible presence. In Spain, that role is taken by Cruz Lopez Tolla, founder of Congelados Krupemar, a key company in the new group that calls itself Union Alimentaria Espana. He is also president of the country's largest trade association in the frozen food field.

Which brings us to the irrepressible, fast-talking, four-language expatriate from Hong Kong, James "Santiago" Lo, in whose offices overlooking the Castillana this correspondent picked up a thousand vibrations and a few nuggets of hard fact. Lo is a director of international commodity traders Nicholls and Teah, and like Krupemar a member of the Union Alimentaria Espana group. The charismatic Chinaman, with 30 years' experience in Spain, is among today's movers and shakers in the Iberian industry.

His friend and associate, Cruz Lopez Tolla, is a fish trader whose Krupemar brand is to be seen in the Spanish supermarkets, but who probably buys and sells more fish than any other Spanish trader.

These are some of the strong men who make Spain's FF fraternity a force to be reckoned with, and whose capabilities should be better known. What the Spanish industry needs most of all right now in visibility, or what some would call good old-fashioned P.R.


If you're into freezing fresh commodities, whether fish or vegetables, you're likely to be on the right wavelength for the Spanish market. If you want to make a mark with prepared, manufactured or recipe dishes, the going is likely to be tougher.

Findus (Nestle) may disagree with this assessment, having successfully launched Lean Cuisine in Spain under the Spanish name Cocina Ligera, but from observations in Al Campo and Corte Ingles supermarkets, it holds good. And the statistics bear it out too.

According to the government-sponsored body, IRESCO, the "Apparent Consumption of Frozen Foods" from 1982-85 showed a 44.4% increase in the vegetable sector, a 25% hike in "unprepared fish," a 50% rise in prepared fish, and a 100% increase in "ready meals."

Another source, semi-official but reticent about identity, reports that between 1982 and '86 the consumption of frozen products (except for ice cream) has risen by more than 50% in Spain. Categorical growth rates follow: Frozen Vegetables, 52%; Prepared Fish, 54%; Unprepared Fish, 25%; Pre-Cooked and Prepared Dishes, 60%.

The Nielsen chart below which is offered for market share comparisons needs no translation, but its categories conceal the actual names of brands and products.

"Empanadillas" are a kind of half-moon shaped pasta snack filled with meat or fish, and might be said to be a peculiarly Spanish "ready meal." A much more widely eaten snack is the "pre-fried" calamari (squid) ring, usually eaten with the fingers at street corners. Squid is a Mediterranean specialty but most of the large fish processors pack "Calamari a Romana," which is not seen in cabinets outside Spain.

A popular national snack item is Sangalobo. A sandwich of ham, cheese, butter and bread, it is packed and frozen now by Productos Machi of Cordoba in one of Frigoscandia's new tunnels.

On the subject of tunnel freezers, there are believed to be 110 on line altogether in Spain, doing about 3,000 kilos an hour -- (which is one way of calculating national production).

If there are 45 tunnels turning out 3 kilos an hour, it is not difficult to compute 135 kilos an hour, from which might also be deduced by those who know about daily outputs, an annual production of 100,000 MT. Semi-official figures for 1987 put production at 460,000 MT (3.2 kilograms per capita per year), of which vegetables contribute 125,000 MT.

If the tone of this article is dubious regarding figures, it is not because the author doubts Spanish sources but rather due to the fact that so many national surveys are put together from other sources and are usually some way removed from the realities of trading, or the boxes one sees in cold stores.

Vegetables packed and frozen by Spanish companies include cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. But other vegetables to be seen in the cabinets are imported from France by Bonduelle, Vivagel and others, and from England via Ross-Youngs.

And there too is the irrespressible, international McCain (Casala) with potato products produced in Spain (at Burgos). Currently advertised by McCain are Patatas crinkle, Patatas 3/8, Patatas julienne, Bocaditos al Patatas and Patatas dollar.

"Pre-fried" products -- generally described in the price lists as "precocinados" -- include croquettes, calamari rings, coated fish fillets and coated shellfish.

Pizzas? Of course -- in a category of their own. But pizza bases appear on one price list as Precocinados.

Values, in pesetas, dollars, pounds and marks, are difficult to ascertain, but those who devote themselves to measuring these things give the greatest value and per capita consumption as seen in the box below.

Ready Meals

There are 13 companies listed in the membership of Asociacion Espanola Fabricantes de Platos Preparados, but not as many recipe dish or ready meal brands are visible in the principal supermarket cabinets. Cakes and speciality lines are visible, but the Spanish frozen food market is still fundamentally a commodity culture. And the commodity that dominates is seafood.


Opportunities in Spain, for Spanish as well as foreign investors, are immense and as yet untapped. While 1992 is the great target date and will focus attention on the European market (for everyone, not just the Europeans), the opportunities for and in Spain would have been there anyway given the country's dynamic growth. Indeed, the nation could soon overtake Britain and France as a center of industrial opportunity. In frozen foods alone, Spain has come a long way in a very short time.

Reports published in the mid-1980s (and there has been very little since) show that foreign trade in packaged frozen foods is minimal. Imports and exports of frozen foods are made up essentially of bulk produce, primarily destined for industrial processing, or for defrosting for immediate sale, unpackaged. For example, molluscs (shellfish) are shipped frozen to be thawed out and displayed on ice as "fresh" but Spain is too well endowed with fresh fish supplies for this kind of thing ever to become a major trading opportunity. The major frozen food import, nevertheless, is fish, and the quantity may have risen steeply since the mid-80s when it averaged 120,000 tons a year.

Exports of frozen foods from Spain, on the other hand, are rising and there is clearly major activity in Andalucia among vegetable processors who not only have their own separate trade association (Asociacion Espanola de Fabricantes de Vegetales Congelados), but have provided a huge opportunity for mechanical freezing manufacturers. While Frigoscandia is all but monopolizing new installations, other tunnel makers and producers of spiral freezing systems are now eyeing Spain.

This reporter has detected among buyers and brokers in Europe and the U.S. a renewed interest in Spain as a source of peas, corn, beans, asparagus, mushrooms and broccoli. And Spanish processors have detected the interest too. It is in this sector that the major opportunity probably lies, but do not overlook the power of the fish processors and the manufacturing opportunities in other Spanish speaking countries in Latin America.

South American countries, burdened with debt, will probably remain too poor in the forseeable future to provide more than minimal markets for frozen food companies. That notwithstanding, Pescanova is hardly alone in its discovery of an abundant food and fish supply in those waters. That, coupled with the region's cheap labor, is a recipe for food processing success. But QFFI has it from several of the leading Spanish processors that Europe offers a much more interesting opportunity for Spanish food marketers than South America, and it is within Europe that the big trading deals of the next 20 years will come to fruition for them.

What this will do is bring to Spain a variety of specialists, notably those who know the international food industry and who have seen opportunities for themselves in a new business game called "mergers and acquisitions." One such company is Gabinete JMT, whose managing director, Jose Maria Torres, has just recruited Mario Canizal from Prosema, the company behind the Alimentaria food fairs. Several British companies have been out in Spain looking at merger possibilities. And the Americans of course are there too. (Some of them are a little baffled by the small size of Spanish frozen food companies, but they are recognizing that they will have to buy their way into a 1992-frenzied Europe, either through Spain or Britain. As Britain has joined the richer and more expensive European countries like Germany and France, however, the most likely possibilities are in less expensive Spain.)

Specialists in mergers and acquisitions are not the only ones with new skills to offer Spain. The Spanish public needs educating about freezing and frozen foods but the task has not been taken up by any of the companies and appears not to have been embraced by the trade associations representing fish, vegetables, ready meals, ice cream, refrigeration and other sectors, separately.

Whether or not a jointly-sponsored publicity/education program is possible or not in Spain is difficult to determine. The independent character of Spaniards makes it seem unlikely, but the need is there.

Certainly, somebody should get behind the promotion of Spanish cuisine and not leave all the action to the French, especially the Mediterranean French. Several Spanish companies (Pescanova, Frudesa, Delfin) have been offering paella ingredients for several years but apparently no one is promoting the cause of authentic paella from Valencia, or any other aspect of Spanish cuisine for that matter.

And if you think lousy paella is only sold in countries with no tradition of Spanish cuisine, just try some of the restaurants behind the Gran Via and you'll experience the kind of over-priced rubbish that sends tourists back wondering what all the fuss is about. There is a lot to make a fuss about in Spain, whose food in this writer's view is the best in the world. But nobody is properly telling the world that this is so.

PHOTO : Pescanova is by far the "Numero Uno" packer of frozen foods in Spain. Its seafood line

PHOTO : runs the gamut from value-added shrimp products to squid dishes and hake items. Not sold

PHOTO : only in the home market, the range can be found in countries as far afield as the United

PHOTO : States and Uruguay.

PHOTO : Pescanova has expanded its presence in the Spanish frozen food market by lending its name

PHOTO : and distribution expertise to ice cream products packed by Dr. Oetker of West Germany.

PHOTO : An example of the frozen seafood fare which Serpesca is pitting against marketleader

PHOTO : Pescanova in Spanish supermarkets.

PHOTO : The look of modernity in production and distribution is clearly evident at the premises of

PHOTO : Distribucciones Mozos, which produces the Serpesca brand. Seafood products are seen going

PHOTO : through the packaging line at left, while trucks outside the plant are ready to take the

PHOTO : output to market.
COPYRIGHT 1989 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Special Market Report; includes related articles on Spanish market
Author:Kemp, Graham
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Apr 1, 1989
Previous Article:Enter PitaStuffs, latest frozen player in rising pita bread sandwich segment.
Next Article:Weight Watchers contribution to Heinz exceeds $100 million annually: O'Reilly.

Related Articles
Stop counting supermarkets in Spain: they don't dominate frozen retailing.
Frozen food at Alimentaria 90, Spain's showcase for exports.
Don't let drought scares fool you, it's vegetable business as usual.
Slower growth for European FF market, but bakery and potato products soar.
Consumers still make their own paella, but QFF companies pack for export.
From Spain to Argentina to Australia, Pescanova's in the international swim.
European frozen food market closing on 8.5 million tons.
Unilever and Nestle heat up battle for dominance of Spanish QFF.
More international buyers than ever sought for Spain's Alimentaria '96 set for March in Barcelona.
In wake of erratic 2001 vegetable harvests Oerlemans assesses pre-2002 crop scene.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters