When it comes to frozen seafood, Spanish newcomer Cabomar Congelados is clearly leading the way. In its extensive production facility in Galicia, the company processes a large variety of products, such as squid, shrimp, mussels, clams, sardines, tuna and even swordfish. We spoke with Enrique Freire, General Manager at Cabomar Congelados, about setting up cost-effective production lines in general, and the recently installed SEALPAC RE30 thermoformer line for skin packaging of frozen seafood in particular.
The beautiful port of Marin, at the very heart of the Spanish seafood industry in Galicia, hosts one of the latest seafood processors in the business: Cabomar Congelados (www.cabomar.com). The company was only founded in 2004, offering a range of cold storage and manufacturing services including production and marketing of frozen seafood products. With the financial back-up of the Italian trading company Panapesca, Cabomar Congelados was able to grow its business very quickly.
Currently around 170 employees, up to 250 employees in peak season, process over 14,000 tons of frozen seafood per year, with products mainly coming from South America (e.g. Chile and Argentina), Asia (e.g. Thailand and Vietnam), South Africa and Spain itself. The company owns factories and fishing vessels worldwide, so that it can assure the fish supply to its customers. Cabomar's products are exported to various European countries under the brand names 'MarNatura' (a wide range of natural, elaborated and pre-fried products for catering and horeca) and 'marnatura vida' (100% natural seafood products without artificial ingredients that make the consumer's life more comfortable due to their quick and easy preparation).
Latest expertise and technologies
In 2006 Cabomar Congelados opened an ultra-modern processing area at its extensive building in Marin. Being one of the newest companies in the Spanish seafood industry to establish, Cabomar Congelados was able to set up its production lines according to latest expertise and technologies. As Enrique Freire, General Manager at Cabomar Congelados and son of the company founder, explains: "Based on our comprehensive market knowledge and experience in seafood processing, we were able to design an extremely cost-effective facility, without compromising our philosophy to innovate by means of new recipes, ingredients and pack styles. By providing the optimum mixture in personalised service, quality (proven by Cabomar's ISO 9001 and IFS certifications) and cost, we clearly differentiate ourselves from our competitors. As an example, we were one of the first companies in Spain to purchase a high-output thermoformer for skin packaging, hence allowing us to control operating cost."
Flexible at high speeds
At the start of 2011 Cabomar Congelados decided to launch a new product line of frozen seafood, among which 'conchas' (black mussels), in skin packaging with protrusion of up to 20 mm. It was clear from the start that it would have to be thermoformed packs with ribs in the side walls for improved stability. With the investment in a high-output thermoformer, an existing chamber machine and flow packer could be eliminated. Freire: "Our starting point was to approach the three leaders in skin packaging equipment, and to express our demands for a thermoformer line solution. One of the leaders was SEALPAC, represented in Spain and Portugal by the company EMO S.A. (www.emosa.com), whom we knew quite well for their many installations in the area. They invited us to the SEALPAC booth at the European Seafood Exposition 2011 in Brussels, where we also got some nice feedback from other seafood producers in Galicia. But most important, in the end they were able to supply the most flexible solution: a semi-tandem SEALPAC RE30 thermoformer that allows us to produce skin packs, as well as flexible vacuum and rigid sealing only packs, at high speeds."
The line, which was installed at the beginning of 2012, has been designed with a single forming station, a double sealing station and a tandem top film unwinding unit to allow for quick and easy changeover between different pack styles. Furthermore, all different longitudinal and cross-cutting systems, as well as the top labelling system, were mounted onto the RE30 thermoformer. Freire: "All in all SEALPAC was able to supply the most flexible machine, given the available space in our processing area, and taking into account the various product changes that we have each day. They also suggested a jumbo bottom film unwinding, which significantly enhances the production time without changeovers. It was supplied as a side-loading system to optimize the footprint of the line in our factory."
Maximum support and training
The installation of the thermoformer only took a few days, as the machine was pre-assembled and thoroughly tested at the SEALPAC factory in Emmen (Holland). This gave Cabomar Congelados plenty of time to optimise the synchronisations with other equipment in the line. It starts with the transport of the frozen product towards an Ishida multihead weigher. The product is then filled into the Abracad distribution system, which loads the exact portions into each pack formed from the bottom film on the SEALPAC RE30 thermoformer. Ribs are formed in the side walls of the pack to provide for optimum pack stability. After sealing with the pre-heated skin film under deep vacuum, the packs are labelled by means of an ELS cross-web labelling system. For this, the pack was designed with a special labelling area. After cross-cutting and longitudinal cutting, the packs are isolated on the inliner from Converging Solutions, after which they are individually coded on the sealing edge and checked by the Bizerba weighing and metal detection system.
Freire: "We agreed that the line would run at least 9 cycles per minute. EMO's technician in the Galician area strongly supported us in optimizing the different synchronisations. We are extremely satisfied that, despite the crisis in Spain, EMO is still able to supply us with maximum support and training. Where other suppliers have reduced their cost at the expense of their service quality, EMO never lets us down."
The benefits of skin packaging
Although skin packaging of frozen seafood has only recently taken off in Spain, it already is the primary packaging solution in Italy. Freire: "Its main advantages are excellent shelf life (between 18 and 24 months for frozen seafood), optimal visibility of the product to consumers, and the use of less packaging materials, compared to for instance trays. Due to the solid nature of our frozen products, and the required protrusion, we had to make sure that we have a perfect pack appearance. EMO supported us by comparing different skin films at the SEALPAC factory in Holland. This also helped us in reducing operating cost. A strong driver in the current packaging industry is reduction of consumables. Here, the skin packs are an excellent solution."
The skin pack, which has been equipped with an under-cut for easy opening, is now mainly sold in Italy through the Italian wholesaler Panapesca. In addition, Cabomar Congelados sells its flexible film vacuum and rigid film sealing only packs, (which are also produced on the SEALPAC RE30 thermoformer), in Spain, as well as exports them to countries like Germany, France, Belgium and Portugal. Freire concludes: "In the future, we expect a rising demand for smaller pack sizes and for ovenable solutions. Despite the crisis in Europe we foresee a steady growth of our company in the coming years, but we are obviously cautious when doing investments. They must be cost-effective in the long run, just like the thermoformer line that we installed at the beginning of 2012!"
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