The company is a leader in the sector in our country, where it has achieved great brand recognition and positioning bonus. And now it has set out to conquer new markets. The story of Ahumados Domínguez begins with Ramon Metanza,Grandfather of the current family generation in the direction. In the 1950s he developed a salmon bank where customers, essentially luxury restaurants, would bring the salmon to be smoked. If 500 grams of smoked salmon came out of every kilo of fresh fish, the bank would give the customer 400 grams and keep this 100 gram difference as payment for the service rendered. And this lot was sold to other customers. It was a perfect deal because you didn’t even have to buy the raw material.

But the business couldn’t give much more than itself. Your son Joseph, at just 17, set out to democratize the consumption of smoked salmon. He packed his suitcase and traveled to Asturias, where most of the salmon consumed in Spain was fished. There he found the market and contacted the fishermen to bring the raw material to Madrid. However, it was not an easy task. It was 1962, another Spain just beginning to wake up after a tough post-war period.

swim against the current

Although today we are used to seeing it on the shelves of all stores, back then hardly anyone knew what smoked salmon is or how to handle or prepare it. “There were no department stores and smoked salmon was a big unknown. His idea was to popularize it in the hospitality industry,” he explains. Peter MetanzaSon of the founder of Ahumados Domínguez and current CEO.

“My father had to explain how to manipulate and how to work. For example, there were people who told him it was very salty… and it turned out they made it grilled. And in some fish shops, since they treated it like fresh fish and put ice on it, they would tell it that it had turned green or that it smelled bad,” he adds.

Added to this ignorance was the high price of smoked salmon at the time. “It was a product whose current cost would be around 550 euros per kilo. Who would pay that for a product they didn’t know about? With no MBA required, the founder quickly realized he needed to diversify. “In the beginning, hardly anyone bought the smoked salmon. My father supported the company through diversification, but out of obligation. He thought of a better known, more affordable fish that could be smoked, so he started making smoked anchovies,” he explains.

ready for the boom

The company gradually consolidated, but its final take-off would come in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The company had moved in 1975 and in 1975 had moved its factory from Madrid to new 3,000 square meter facilities in Alcorcón, 150 square meters per worker,” says the CEO. Although it may seem excessive at the time, this new factory was crucial to its growth. “When we When we moved, we invoiced just over 20 million pesetas, and when we left these establishments, 2,000 million had already been paid in,” he specifies.

At that time there was a sales boom with the entry of large hypermarket chains such as Pryca, Continente, Jumbo, etc. into our country. Smoked salmon consumption has skyrocketed. And Ahumados Domínguez had the necessary facilities to meet that demand. In 1992 it moved to its current headquarters, also in Alcorcón.

Quality, distribution and brand

Ahumados Domínguez bases its success on the following pillars:

quality and regularity. Ahumados Domínguez products are positioned in one segment bonus. For example, their salmon costs around 15% more than other references found in stores. And in hospitality, the price is between 20% and 25% higher. “The quality has to be immutable, because that’s what the target group expects,” says Mestanza. But with a commodity like salmon, getting it is not easy.

“Every time it comes in one direction. There are some quality standards but it’s impossible for it to be exactly the same all year round as it’s not the same that it’s about to spawn and has already done so whether it’s summer or winter etc. Our key is that we smoke 252 days a year and do it a different way 252 times to make sure the result is always the same,” he explains.

The company has experts in cutting knives that cut them manually. And it’s salted and pressed by hand, rather than injecting a liquid brine like other brands.

retail channel… Ahumados Domínguez is commercially available gourmet, in hypermarkets such as Carrefour, Alcampo and Hipercor or in the supermarkets of Sánchez Romero. And it has a special relationship with El Corte Inglés. In addition to the presence in his gourmet club, there are nine corners in Group facilities, in Madrid, Barcelona, ​​​​​​Marbella and Lisbon. And hopes to open in Murcia soon. In these spaces, it offers specialized knife sales and references not found elsewhere.

“Having your own store brings visibility to the brand. We generate around half a million tickets a year. They’re connections to our consumers, which is what that brings,” says Metanza. 60% of their sales come from retail.

…and hospitality. The remaining 40% of your billing comes from this channel. It supplies the entire federal territory every day and serves 10,000 restaurants directly, either via its own logistics or external dealers. The presence in the hospitality industry was very important at the beginning of the company and currently maintains its role in creating a brand and increasing visibility. Restaurants like Coque and Columbus – by Mario Sandoval -, Zalacaín, El Landó – from the same family as Casa Lucio – or Lhardy integrate their branded products into their dishes.

events and tastings

The brand participates in various events to gain visibility. For example, he was at the opening party of the Escada store from Puerto Banus (Marbella) or the Casino Gran Madridat the launch of the cookbook Eneko Atxa, triple ‘Michelin Star’. At certain times, tastings are also held at the points of sale and in the company’s own branches. Even three of its corners in El Corte Inglés have a tasting bar. “We want people to try and compare us so they can see our quality,” he notes.

business challenges

The company enjoys a leading position in our country and high brand awareness, but it also faces important challenges.

Difficult export. He only started selling outside of Spain three years ago, as it is difficult to export a product like his with a branded positioning bonus and fresh, not frozen. “It’s about targeting new countries where the brand is not known, and at a higher price than other references sold in that country. Also, it needs to be carried and distributed to stores. A product like this, which has an expiry time of 30 days, arrives abroad in about 26 days, leaving barely 20 days to transport it across the country,” explains Mestanza. For this reason, Ahumados Domínguez only exports to countries with traders who understand the specifics of their product and are willing to put up with the complications that come with working with the fresh product. “We started three years ago, but if nobody was willing to postpone it like that, that line would have been closed,” he says.

Generic Product. “One of the challenges is that people stop thinking of salmon as a generic drug. Anyone who tastes a cheese and doesn’t like it doesn’t say they don’t like cheese. He says he doesn’t like “this” cheese. And the same goes for ham,” Mestanza points out.

Fresh and farmed

Ahumados Domínguez only works with fresh salmon to guarantee quality, which makes export difficult.

One of Ahumados Domínguez’s hallmarks is that it doesn’t freeze its product once it’s made, making it difficult to export. And it doesn’t work with frozen fish as a raw material either. “Wild salmon have a fishing season. If you want to supply all year round, it would have to be frozen. And freezing doesn’t go well with this product because it changes everything: the texture, the taste…” Mestanza clarifies.

The company works with farmed salmon from Norway and Scotland, which it receives three times a week. As for the rest of the fish, cod comes from Iceland; trout from Norway; and the anchovy is national. The Director General assures that this is the only way to guarantee quality, controlling the animal’s breeding process, its feeding, currents, mobility and, in general, its entire habitat. “This is how a perfect product is created. Wild salmon doesn’t give us that. Quality is a process that starts 15 months earlier, in Norway or Scotland, during this breeding period. Another advantage of farmed salmon is that it is free from anisakis,” he specifies.

However, he admits that it is difficult for the consumer to assimilate. “We usually talk about wild salmon underestimating farmed salmon. On the contrary, people understand that driving their car on the road, Iberian pigs are not seen in the wild. However, the animals intended for the production of acorn ham live in freedom only during the months of the Montanera season,” he points out.