Clemente Loriente: "The good ham has little salt, is juicy, with aroma and is neither tender nor hard" :: KPMG


- There are two kinds of genetics and, depending on what you want to get, you cross it with one female or the other. In his day, my father and his brothers decided to make a good ham and, without a doubt, the best is the Iberian. So that a white pig looked like him, they chose the genetics with more fat infiltration, crossed it with a good female, with infiltrated fat, and, feeding him cereal, they obtained the ham we make today.

–We –and I don't know if it's going to sound very good-–, painlessly, we castrate the males two days after birth. When they grow up, as males they are, they want to ride the females, fight and bite, have much more activity and, if we do not, their meat is more exudative and, therefore, harder to eat. The females are more rested, grease more and their meat has greater tenderness. If fifty percent of the cabin are whole males, when you are going to sell to the customer, one day it will be very tender, but the next you will give it hard. You are going to relocate. Then they - the founders - decided to castrate the males from the first moment. Whereupon, the behavior and development of the life of male and female is very similar and, thus, organoleptically, all our pigs are equal.

–Although we have been eating ham for a lifetime and we are the biggest consumers in the world, we don't know everything we should. The first difference is clear: Iberian and Serrano, which comes from the white pig. Perhaps removing the label that indicates the months of healing, there is little more that a customer knows when buying. You can see the seal from behind, the map. And you can see the list of ingredients, which indicates that it has ham, salt, a little nitrate and a little nitrite. And he doesn't know anymore. That is why it has been worth almost everything. People buy because they trust the distributor, which I think is our case: our ham is recognized as Mercadona ham. And buy also by brand. The ham is sometimes phenomenal and sometimes not. Our competitive advantage is that ours are all the same: they are slaughtered in the same place, broken down and cooled in the same way, they go in the truck with the temperature controlled, with the same days. We have controlled the mixture of salt, temperature and humidity of each dryer and cellar. You may like it or not, but it is always the same.

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<figcaption class=Clemente Loriente, in front of the meat plant of the Cuenca town of Tarancón. The group sacrifices nine thousand pigs every day, two million a year. | FERNANDO R. GORENA

- Tremendous. As you are not involved in the subject, it is complicated. There are the denominations of origin and, later, Guijuelo, Jabugo, Extremadura, the Valley of the Pedroches ... And you wonder: how does it fit with a white label and a green one, a red one and a black one? People get lost a little. But it is true that, if we do not place this order, some industrialists, in some moments, may be tempted to charge more for something that is not worth it.

–Or charge for acorn Iberian being Iberian bait. Or charge for one hundred percent pure Iberian being a field bait ... It has come well and, now, for industrialists it is more difficult to deceive the consumer. Another thing is that the consumer really knows what he is buying, because it is very difficult to explain what is an Iberian of field bait, one of acorn or an Iberian of acorn of seventy-five percent or one hundred percent of purity. This does not reach the consumer. The black flange is the purest.

- No, what happens is that it has less fat. It is so pure that it gives a much darker color and, in the ripening process, in natural dryers, if the healing time is lengthened, it can become enormous. When you cut it, you can grab a little to the throat. There are people who perceive that as a great quality, we believe that no, that the ham, to be good, has to be soft and pleasing.

–In Iberian, the color of the bridle tells you a lot. The white one corresponds to the bait, with which the mother is Iberian, but the father is of the same genetics as our white pigs. The field bait is the same, but has been in the corral, has a larger space and walks. The fifty percent acorn is because one of the parents was white. The bridle tells you: bait, field bait, fifty percent acorn and pure acorn, one hundred percent. Based on that, you know the degree of purity. Then, externally, there is no big difference.

- In the ham there are three variables that we must assess. One is the amount of salt. Our hams have very little, because we understand that it has negative connotations and that one cannot eat a hundred grams of ham and be drinking water all day. The second factor is the texture. One does not want a tender ham, because it will not taste, but not hard, because it does not please the palate. And the third, which we defend above all, is the infiltration of fat, which gives it juiciness and aroma. Here we must exempt the acorn one hundred percent pure, which we say is blind. That is, being so pure, it has subcutaneous fat, the outside fat, but it hardly has infiltrated fat. I would say that, when you go to see a ham, it is best to try it. If you buy it whole, you will have to wait to open it. It has a very thin part, the babilla, which has its fat infiltration. It is the first to open. When you turn it over, there's the mace, which is very juicy. That is, it is not one hundred percent homogeneous. What do we do, what does Mercadona do? If you take it and you don't like it, even if it is a personal perception, we will change it for you. We understand that it gives us more that guarantee of satisfaction that we do not change it and you will buy the next one to another site.

- It is not exactly like that. Mercadona came to account for ninety-two percent of our turnover. There are a number of inter-suppliers that we have been with them for many years, that we have grown thanks to their good work and that we are very proud to have accompanied them. Thanks to its high demand, we have greatly improved our processes and especially food health and quality. As they have had the vision of satisfying the boss - as they always call the client - they have forced us to satisfy him always. Because what they don't want are quality complaints.

"Thanks to Mercadona's great demand, we have greatly improved our processes and food quality and health"

- It gives us respect, but we would not be what we are without Mercadona. What would have happened in the crisis, when so many companies have closed? The passage of time has shown us that Mr. Roig has a word, he has respected the agreements. Now, he has decided to open the range of suppliers. If you are a product specialist, you stay and, if there is another, enter too. But, at the same time, it allows you to export and do other things in Spain. I see risks? As always, but also opportunities. Mercadona opens the range and that means that others will enter my category, but I will also be able to enter those of others. What I have to do is be the best at what I do. We are faithful to them one hundred percent, but we are evolving.

-Very intense. They are not limited to making a product and sending it to them. They study what we do to improve and that the customer is increasingly satisfied. They visit our factories, we make decisions together, we look at how to optimize processes, how to improve products or how to save costs. If there are improvements, the efficiencies do not go to the business margin, apply them directly to the price. And that is also a part of his success. They have such an open mind that they rethink everything. There are things that, had it not been for them, nor would we have thought of them.

–We have expanded, but above all outside of Spain. The international market is very powerful and we had not done anything because we were very focused here, because Mercadona has been growing between sixty and eighty points of sale a year.

-Absolutely. We make serrano hams with a maturity period of fourteen months, the Iberian bait of twenty-six / twenty-eight, the acorn-fed thirty-eight / forty. To have all this, I need slaughterhouse, dryer and I need to have all the pigs. Of white pig we kill nine thousand daily, we make more than two million a year. And of Iberian we kill about a thousand newspapers. Spain exports almost sixty percent of white pig. The Iberian is for almost exclusive consumption in Spain, although Sánchez Romero, Joselito, Montaraz or Covap begin to penetrate the United States.

–Our main business is serrano ham –we make almost five million pieces a year– and the entire Iberian family, both ham and shoulder, loin and sausage. We are trying to sell in Japan and South Korea with local partners, in the Philippines, Africa, of course in Europe and we are waiting for homologation for China, the great global buyer, who also has problems with swine fever, the cabin has been reduced very much.

- They do not understand it. Some countries directly reject it. The good thing we have is that eighty million tourists from all over the world arrive here. They try it and they love it. When they return to their country it is more difficult: they don't know how to cut it, they don't know how to treat it, they don't know how to keep it. I think we are all trying to penetrate with slices, putting it in a blister with gas and oxygen. Or in a vacuum, which also remains fairly well.

“China is the largest importer of pigs; USA, the second world producer: its commercial war represents an opportunity for Spain ”

- The same, no. Let's not fool ourselves. In fact, Mercadona has now put the knife cut. Freshly cut is better. But that does not mean that the other is not good. A freshly peeled apple at home is also better than packaged in a blister pack.

- Three or four years ago. We did little things with Russia, but of surpluses of bacon or jowls. The adventure begins because we see an opportunity, because we don't want to miss certain things. And the situation with Mercadona is more stable, they continue to grow, but we already have an express structure for them. In the past, we have done barbarities, Japanese customers came and we refused to sell them because we were focused on Mercadona. Now, we have a partnership in Switzerland with expert internationalization partners and we already sell sixty million out. The objective of the strategic plan is for a quarter of the turnover to be made out in five years.

- Yes, it affects us for good. China is the world's largest importer of pigs with Japan. It is also the world's leading producer. The second is the United States, our natural competitor. They have very low costs, because they have large extensions of cereal and soy that make them more efficient. So, if China puts tariffs on the United States, it costs them more to sell and there is an opportunity for Europeans. Specifically, for Spain, because Germany is decreasing. The commercial war favors Spanish operators. In fact, the Chinese come to standardize industries here because they need more raw material.

- As always, they go at a lower rate than we would like. It is a very heavy machinery, very slow, it is difficult to move. That said, it is true that the governments of recent years have helped us in foreign markets. There has been a before and after the crisis. When he arrived, we were very comfortable selling here and arriving in France, Italy and a little more. When consumption fell, the industry itself squeezed the Administration, we started pushing because we had sales needs. It is slow, but it started and today Spain is open to almost everyone, we are working well.

- Excessive rigidity in regulation does not favor business development. We need flexibility because the demand of our customers is not stable or regular. And if we do not have flexibility, we enter into productivity problems and are less competitive than other countries such as Germany, with workers from Poland and Ukraine on a cooperative basis and therefore have that competitive advantage.

- We already had a long time register, so in the vast majority of the workforce it does not affect us. Before, in case of any unforeseen or technical shutdown that required an urgent reaction, we could turn to any technician. Now, with this regulation, we have less room for maneuver and can fall into production stops, but we must comply with current legislation in all cases.

The company data
  • 742 millions of euros
  • INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE: 43 markets
  • EMPLOYEES: 1,800
  • PLANTS: 9 Tarancón, Jabugo, Guijuelo, Corral de Almaguer, Olías del Rey



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