- Conservas Ramirez
Ramirez is the world’s oldest canned fish producer still in operation
While it is true that the canned fish industry left its mark on the history and development of many of Portugal’s coastal towns, it is no less true that among the companies that undertook this industrial activity, some stood out not only because of the quality of their products, but above all because of their strategic vision. One such case is Ramirez & Cia (Filhos), SA, the world’s oldest canned fish producer still in operation, for whom a competitive strategy allied to strong family desire to constantly strive for a bigger and better future, has been an overriding tenet explaining its longevity.
Profile and history
From Vila Real de Santo António (VRSA) to Matosinhos, taking in the towns of Olhão, Albufeira, Setúbal and Peniche, the industrial and commercial activity of Ramirez is replete with significant milestones. As the first canned fished undertaking in the country, the VRSA plant is the cradle of the sector in Portugal. Applying the principle discovered by Nicholas Appert, and later drawn up into the theories of Pasteur, it revolutionised the concept of food conservation in Portugal. At the start of the last century exportation of products began and the first sardine steam ship was launched to sea, the Senhora da Encarnação.
In the 1930s one of the company partners was also a pioneer in the corporative organisation of the sector. And in the 1970s the easy-to-open cans were born, thanks to the obsessive quest to serve the customer better as professed by the current owner, Manuel Guerreiro Ramirez.
One hundred and fifty-six years of history, several million tonnes of cans, a compulsive family mission of knowledge, effort and perseverance. This is the portrait of Ramirez & Cia (Filhos), SA, which is today one of the rare fifth-generation family companies still going strong, having progressed and grown through dozens of revolutions, the fall of empires and two world wars.
With an average of 250 employees, it has plants in Leça da Palmeira and Peniche. It sells 40 millions cans/year and exports 45% of its production, commercialised under its own brands.
Ramirez is present in the Portuguese market and in 37 international markets with a range of 55 canned fish varieties and an average of 10 different brands. Ramirez’s internationalisation process, which has been distinguished by the Portuguese Industrial Association, began at the end of the 19th century and has been based on a strong own brand policy, creating and commercialising brands such as Cocagne in the Benelux countries (exported since 1906 and which recently marked 100 years of activity in the leadership of that market), Tomé in the Philippines, Canada and the USA, Al Fares in the Arab world, or Gabriel in South Africa, which have become synonymous with excellence, and are unrivalled in the respective local canned fish markets. Exportation of Ramirez’s canned fish products continues to grow apace, solidifying the continued presence of the Ramirez brand in the markets of Austria, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, France, Brazil, England, Switzerland, South Africa, Canada, USA, Venezuela, Angola, Mozambique, Germany, Israel, Japan, China and Australia, among others.
What is the secret behind the success? As well as innovative and unique products, Ramirez implements strict quality control in all phases of the industrial and commercial process, from the raw material to the final products, possessing its own Laboratory and complying with the HACCP system. With growing global concerns regarding food safety, together with the company activity in very demanding markets from the point of view of quality, the Ramirez Quality Control system has been ratified by the strictest control departments for many years, such as the Canadian Fisheries Inspection Agency (CFIA), South African Bureau Standards (SABS), European Food Safety Inspection Service (EFSIS), Food and Drugs Administration (FDA of the USA), and by many of the most important worldwide chains, ensuring that all parameters of the production phases and post-production phases are totally guaranteed. Ramirez has also recently obtained the Quality Management System certification, governed by the NP EN ISO 9001:2000 standard, attributed by SGS, one of the world’s most renowned Quality Certification services. As such, Ramirez has become the first Portuguese canned fish company to be accredited by SGS.
Ramirez strives to make a big contribution towards quality of life through “healthy eating”, always allied to physical exercise. The Ramirez Nutrition Centre, CENUTRA, is one of the driving forces behind this vision of the future. The CENUTRA, set up by Ramirez, with scientific support from the Faculty of Nutrition and Food Sciences (Faculdade de Ciências da Nutrição e Alimentação) of Porto University, sponsors scientific research in health, nutrition and food sciences, especially geared towards canned fish and its benefits; and it has a very specific focus on the production of content for nutrition training. The CENUTRA aims to seek scientific knowledge that will lead to a healthy diet and disseminate it among the community. The goal is to help to promote the Mediterranean diet. With the introduction of the so-called Junk Food, society has forgotten the benefits that canned sardines – with its high content in proteins and also vitamins B1, B2, PP, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron and Copper – can provide to pregnant women, growing children, osteoporosis suffered by the elderly, as well as contributing to greater longevity of all of us. The Faculty of Nutrition and Food Sciences of Porto University supervises the CENUTRA in the fields of science, education and raising awareness among the consumer.
The strategic importance of the sea
In the opinion of Ramirez & Cª (Filhos), SA – the world’s oldest canned fish producer still in operation – responsibility towards the environment and the sea in particular is a crucial pillar of its longevity. The company has been linked to the sea for over 150 years and continues to believe that its future lies in the oceans. As such, it was more than happy to form a partnership with the Porto Sea Life Centre.
Involved in a process, now finished, of certification of the sustainability of national sardine fishing and a sponsor of the “Hypercluster do Mar” (Hypercluster of the Sea), RAMIREZ seeks through these synergies with Sea Life to raise awareness among the younger section of the population about the modern “Portuguese Sea”. Today this area comprises an immense exclusive maritime zone, the wealth of which, in all its aspects, transforms it into what should be a collective goal.
The vast array of economic activities of the sea has huge strategic potential (Ports and Maritime Transport; Fisheries, Aquaculture and Connected Industries; Tourism, Recreational Water Sports and Leisure Activities; Ship Building and Repair; Marine Biotechnology; Ocean Technology Industries; Mineral Resources; Hydrocarbons and Methane Hydrates; Renewable Energies) and will lead to the creation of wealth, with the added advantage of deepening the intrinsic characteristics of the Portuguese identity. This becomes apparent to visitors to Sea Life who watch the six-minute film that is a kind of interactive lesson for the young, about the Portuguese Sea.
Ramirez believes that the Sea has been, and will continue to be, generous towards the Portuguese people, but also demands added responsibility today: to protect against new and old threats.
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