Author: Marielle Ramaekers
An evolution in traditional products
WHO? Elena Martínez, CEO of Martínez Somalo, Rioja, Spain.
WHAT? Exploring different ways to innovate.
WHY? We understand that innovation is the most appropriate way to secure the factory.
Over the past 115 years, and under the watchful eye of four generations of the Martinez family, Martínez Somalo has grown from a small food production business selling pork products to a large organisation selling over 300,000 jamóns per year. “On the one hand we offer traditional tasty products and on the other hand we offer innovative products, which surprise the consumer. We have certified our products and processes in order to offer greater quality and food safety,” says Elena. The family runs a solid industry with modern facilities including a controlled-atmosphere dry room.
Today’s consumer wants to try new products. With this in mind, Martínez Somalo worked with the ‘Centro Tecnológico Empresarial Alimentario’ (CTIC_CITA) for technological assessment and know-how. Together, they developed a new successful assortment of barbecue-flavoured chorizo sausages. “Our size does not allow us to have our own research and development department, so we collaborate,” Martínez says. “CTIC-CITA has great professionals who understand the problems within the industry.”
Chorizo is found in many traditional Spanish dishes including paella & tortilla but the Martinez family have found that there is a wider scope for this traditional product. “Interestingly, chorizo is now used as an additional ingredient in several fish dishes and salads in England. These are new uses that we have never considered before so we have to encourage consumers to try it out” Elena explained. Martínez Somalo has EU protection for their chorizo riojano and their jamón serrano as a regionally manufactured products.
Old and new
An evolution in traditional products took place in the past few years, states Martínez. "For example, we commercialised ham in square pieces, which would be unimaginable for my grandfather. We also brought back a successful product, ‘jamón pimentonado’, pepper-flavoured cured ham, with a process used by our great-grandparents. The meat is processed with a spice blend to achieve a tasty product that is slightly spicy. The successful recovery was mainly down to consumers who remembered this product from their youth but younger consumers liked it as well and we have event been able to export it.”
Martinez produces ‘chorizo riojano’ that has a protected geographical indication (PGI) and ‘jamón serrano’ with traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG). “The company benefits from the geographical indication as the Consumers recognize the geographical indications and relate them to high quality.”
The Martínez family seeks to add value to their products through innovation, without abandoning their artisan trait. “Being able to communicate this value of provenance is the security that certifies our family business with over one hundred years of experience”, Elena Martínez explains. “Our challenge is sustainable growth, without forgetting our family and company values.”