Christmas is the busiest time of the year for most European smokehouses. Recent price drops have no influence yet on the Christmas business, but are welcomed nevertheless. “We can finally breathe again.”
At smokehouse De Zalm, located in the Dutch town of Krimpen aan den IJssel, the holiday season workload started two weeks ago, says co-owner Saskia Mudde.
“We received a big Christmas order from a big Dutch hotel chain, for 27.000 kilo’s, so we increased production significantly. Everything we produce is transported directly to the customer, to be put in their freezer.”
De Zalm also received an early order from a horeca wholesaler, for 4000 kilo’s.
“So we are putting in a lot of effort! We are hiring an extra worker. Work has increased anyway, so we can use the extra pair hands.”
This work pace will continue until Christmas, says Mudde. “After this our regular Christmas orders will be coming in, so the demand will only increase.”
Christmas is an important period for De Zalm, but not the top busy period of the year any more that it used to be.
“Since the purchase prices of salmon have gone up, we have applied a strict price policy, to prevent losses. We had a very good year all in all, demand has been good all through the year. All our customers use and order more each year, so we grow along automatically.”
No price benefits
Her company does not benefit from the lowered salmon prices of the moment. “We already sold everything and have no freezer space, so we can’t buy extra right now.”
The same goes for Belgian smokehouse Het Vishuis, says owner Siegfried Schön.
“I only make gift packages with fresh products, so I start buying fish for Christmas at the end of November. The prices will very likely have gone up by then. We keep the same sales prices all year round, so our margin will depend on the price of that moment.”
Besides, he continues, this period should not make up for the whole year anyway.
“This should be the icing on the cake.”
His preparations for the holidays started at the end of the summer, when ordering special packaging material. “It had to be designed and printed, that takes a couple of months.”
Schön has twenty regular customers for Christmas gifts, who order between 80 and 500 salmon gift packages each.
“I don’t do any other aquisition, because the Christmas gifts are very labour-intensive. The salmon sides are packed in special cases, combined with personalised Christmas cards, and put in an cardboard gift box. We do the packing and the delivering, so that means a lot of logistics, in work and delivery.”
The margins are considerable, because these are one-off orders.
“It’s a win-win situation, with a good price for both parties.”
The production days are very hectic. “Some of those last days we work through the night, as most smokehouses do. But with Christmas we are free. Its hard work, but also special, because of the atmosphere and the teamwork. And of course our workers get their own Christmas salmon.”
‘We can breathe again’
Jan Willem Kuyt, owner of Roots smokehouse, is also preparing for the season. He is quite content with the recent price drop in Norway.
“This has a calming influence on the market. We are going back to the situation of three years ago. This is much better for all parties in the market. Norway can continue to produce, and we can serve our customers well.”
In the past couple of years the margins were very small, he continues. “Now we can breathe again.”