The company from Valladolid closed 2018 with 170 million kilos marketed and with a market share of 18%. Fruit Today Euromagazine talked to Javier Meléndez, its general manager.
The executive told us about the know-how of the company he directs and how it has become the first packaging company in the country, as well as the challenges marked out for the near future.
This centre in Medina del Campo is possibly one of the most up-to-date, in terms of technology, in Spain and, I would even dare to say, in Europe. However, you are going to continue innovating and extending, aren’t you?
Yes, indeed. We have to go along with the speed of all the technological changes if we don’t want to get left behind, and this is not part of our philosophy. We are already working on a new investment that will allow us greater plans for growth and an improvement in the offer. The new warehouse will have the latest technology available and the quality levels that we will reach have been unthinkable up to now.
This constant concern about innovation is also passed on to the products that you prepare. In some forums, we have seen the qualitative leap given in potatoes that may be microwaved.
Yes, we have created a new product starting from scratch. That is to say, looking for the most specific varieties that could give the best results in microwave packages. There are other companies that offer a potato that is a sub-product from the selection made from main potatoes, but this is not our case. We have chosen firm-fleshed potato varieties, suitable for boiling, potatoes that we have found in Europe and that we are now growing in Spain.
Another prominent difference is the packaging, which allows the potatoes to be steamed in the microwave because we have incorporated a valve. There are other microwave formats on the market that do not use this system. Both the choice of the right potato and the valve mean added value compared to those already on the market. We have managed to do what we were trying to: fast preparation, exceptional quality and a very healthy product.
Do you think that the potato segmentation is known and respected in Spain in the same way as it is in Northern Europe?
Of course not. The problem lies in the fact that the right varieties have not been selected for each culinary use and, therefore, consumers have not perceived this bonus, because not all potatoes can be used for everything, although that is the idea held by many people.
At Patatas Meléndez, we are specialists and pioneers in this practice. We know very well which varieties behave better for each culinary use and this is what we want to protect. In the end, this lack of knowledge generates a drop in consumption, but carefully performed segmentation must continue with technical and scientific rigour. If it says for frying or for boiling on the bag, this must be the same throughout the entire year, using the most suitable variety.
You are staunch defenders of national produce, but obviously you have to resort to imports.
Just so. One of the most important tools started up by the company was the preparation of an Agrarian Plan with an important involvement by the farmers, with whom we sign contracts and whom we give technical assessment, which allows us to have Spanish potatoes 365 days a year. In the month of April, the sugar levels in the conservation potatoes that are on the supermarket shelves are very high, affecting the quality of the potatoes. We constantly evaluate these parameters and introduce national potatoes as soon as they have been harvested.
Obviously, we resort to imports because our volume is very large, but whenever there are enough Spanish potatoes, we prefer to use these.