Isidro de la Cal Llorente was a burgalés with marine instinct. With just stepping on Galicia just after the Civil War, he visualized the great business that would take daily fish and seafood from the markets to the wholesale markets of the plateau. In 1952 he named a company with which since the eighties he also created pioneering fish farms and, 65 years later, continues to market delicacies from the sea but adapted to living fast of the 21st century. Now sushi is its flagship product along with clean and filleted tray trays of species such as salmon, hake, cod, cuttlefish, sea bass or trout. Sell raw, packaged, branded fish to cook in a few minutes.
With 53 million billing, the company does not clarify if in 2017 it continued giving losses that it did harvest until, at least, 2016, the date of its last accounts presented in the Mercantile Registry. That year he inaugurated one of the largest sushi preparation plants in Spain, a thousand square meter bunker where a hundred workers dressed in suits that only let their eyes see prepare 65,000 trays a week. The fact that you work with raw fish, wield their responsible, requires strict food safety measures. The machines are disassembled several times a day to be disinfected and, every two hours, the workers must change their gloves.
In only two years of life, the plant in which the employees of Isidro 1952 fill by hand each day a kilometer carpet of rice and nori seaweed that is then cut into slices, goes for its second expansion. Antonio López-Pizarro, CEO of the firm, is convinced that the sushi market "still has much to grow in Spain" taking into account the rage that this dish arouses in other countries with similar lifestyles.
The company has signed an expert in Japanese food to improve the rice recipe and try to look as much as possible to the fresh preparation. In the hands of this chef will also put experimentation with new ingredients so that the Cambre plant can follow the gastronomic fashions.
The road to today has not been easy. With its founder deceased in 2005 and the family already disengaged, the company is now called Isidro 1952. After suffering the hard onslaught of the economic crisis, a group of managers supported by financial institutions took control of society in 2013, in which new shareholders also entered. With the fresh fish that inspired Isidro de la Cal, the new managers undertook a "transformation" of the business "based on innovation and technology". "We saw that consumer demand had changed because so have life habits and demographic characteristics," explains Laura Marín, marketing director. "People now want to eat fast but healthy and flavored dishes."
In its factory in Espírito Santo, in Cambre (A Coruña), where some 5,000 tons of fish are processed per year, workers clean the specimens, thread them by hand or machine and pack them. In one part of the trays the fish is put into slices and, thanks to a protective atmosphere from which the oxygen is extracted, the product stays fresh for seven days. In others, raw pieces are added to different sauces and, thanks to a special microwave packaging, they sell ready-to-cook dishes in just a couple of minutes. The company also makes hamburgers "with 85% fish" and battered.
The facilities work like a huge fish market. Of a whole hake, for example, 47% is used, since the head, spine and fins are extracted, some remains that are collected by a waste management company. In the case of salmon, which is bought in Norway, the waste is sold to third countries in Asia "because there they take advantage of it".
These products, say those responsible for Isidro 1952, are designed for small households with tiny refrigerators; for workers who bring their food to the office; or for diners with little culinary skills that aspire to spot little. "Our products are within the category of fish but it is one step further: we want to help them get closer to the [sección de] fish shop [de las cadenas de distribución] people who do not usually do it due to lack of time or ability ", explains Marín.
One step from the USA
With a staff of 272 people, the company has lost two thirds of its sales since the crisis broke out and has come to have serious difficulties, with a negative net worth reflected in their accounts. Now they ensure that their billing grows and they trust in the new strategy. Its production, which "is perfectly adapted to the consumption habits of large cities", in the words of López-Pizarro, has already reached large stores in Hong Kong, Germany, Italy or Portugal. The eye is now placed in the United States, with market studies underway that analyze both the species and flavors preferred by the population and the functioning of the distribution channels.
The founder of the company was a pioneer of aquaculture. He set up his first trout farm in 1981; in 1992 the turbot and in 1999, the first and only one in the world where breams have been raised. The latter continues to operate in Lorbé, a small port in the municipality of Oleiros (A Coruña), where between 140 and 200 tonnes are produced annually. This unique hatchery on the planet is made up of 48 cages in the middle of the sea, where the sea bream fry that the company breeds in Valdoviño, 60 kilometers from Oleiros, when they are six months old, are submerged. In the marine baskets fatten up to reach a weight that ranges between 400 and 600 grams, although for Christmas reserve pieces that reach even the kilo.