Balfegó, the Spanish company that is fighting to save bluefin tuna
Sustainability throughout all stages of production and commercialization. A pioneering commitment to complete traceability and the protection of the highly valued Mediterranean bluefin tuna. These are the underlying themes that set the daily course for Spanish company Balfegó, whose products made with Thunnus thynnus are distributed in the most select restaurants (Michelin stars included) on both a national and international level. How far do they go? More than 80% of the company's production is exported to 24 countries, among them Hong Kong, the United States, Germany and the United Arab Emirates. Sales Manager Higini Hernández tells us all about it
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández ©ICEX
Translation: Adrienne Smith /@ICEX
What are the main actions developed by Balfegó with regard to sustainability and the protection of the species Thunnus Thynnus?
Grup Balfegó has always been deeply implicated in the area of sustainability and the protection of the species Thunnus thynnus, given the fact that we have a huge interest in the survival of the species for future generations. This is why the company was the driving force behind the 2007 recovery plan for the species and has actively participated in perfecting the relevant regulations.
It was Grup Balfegó that proposed that all companies dedicated to fishing bluefin tuna assume the cost for the ICCAT observers (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas), a key measure to guarantee the legality and control of the capture and recovery of the species.
Ten years later, we are extremely satisfied by the fact that it will be announced at the ICCAT General Assembly in November of 2017 that the fishing of Thunnus thynnus in the Mediterranean will move from a recovery plan to a normal management plan. This move reflects the effectiveness of the measures supported so resolutely by Balfegó, despite opposition by other operators and the boycott of organizations with interests more in line with politics than the protection of the species. In other areas where the policies used here have not been followed, the species is still under a recovery plan.
Are international customers knowledgeable about the organoleptic and qualitative differences between Thunnus thynnus from the Mediterranean or Atlantic Oceans with regard to varieties found in other latitudes?
Anyone that tries bluefin tuna understands the difference between species. This is why we carry out outreach efforts and do everything in our power to physically put our products within reach of final consumers. That is the basis for our consumer strategy.
Balfegó is a worldwide pioneer in the creation of a traceability system for tuna. What does this process consist of and what guarantees does it offer international customers?
It is an exclusive traceability system unlike any other in the world through which a unique code is assigned to each of the tunas (and each of its parts). This code accompanies the piece from the sea to the plate, offering consumers product information that includes the species, weight, date of harvest, documentation of capture, microbiological analysis, fat percentage and final client.
In summary, it includes much more information than what is required by law, because Balfegó believes that customers have a right or even, to a certain extent, a responsibility to be informed. This system also guarantees customers' peace of mind in the knowledge that they are consuming a product that was fished in accordance with the regulation that guarantees the continuity of the species, monitored by the relevant authorities following scientific guidelines.
Your international customers include top-tier restaurants. In which cities and countries do your products have the greatest presence in quality dining establishments?
Balfegó's website has a section featuring a world map that tells people where they can eat Balfegó bluefin tuna. Using a system of automatic data dumping from our ERP, the map is updated according to the orders received by those clients that have opted to participate in the program. If a client hasn't consumed tuna in over a week, they disappear from the map of restaurants serving Balfegó products until they make their next order. Searches can be made on the map by city, or by the distance to our location at any given time. This map makes it easy to see which great, Michelin-starred restaurants are loyal consumers of Balfegó tuna.
Balfegó offers its international customers top-quality products that are available year-round. What logistical processes does the company enact in order to keep true to this premise?
The processes of sacrificing (the tuna), packaging and arrival at the airport, always take place during the first 24 hours. Depending on where it is going, the product might arrive at its final destination on the same day, or one day later, but always in the fastest way possible.
What are Grupo Balfegó's next objectives in terms of export and international expansion?
The next sales goals that have been set with regard to Balfegó's exports and international expansion are China, as well as a greater development of the distribution channel in the United States, in order to be able to reach restaurants in a more direct way.
Lastly, how did the idea come about to create a space dedicated to gastronomy like the Tunateca in Barcelona?
There is still much that the public needs to learn in general about the species Thunnus thynnus, and the high percentage of fraud out there contributes to this lack of understanding and confusion. As previously mentioned, customers that try the product immediately grasp its organoleptic differences. Therefore, the Tunateca was created as our best option to reach the public at large.