Around the world, the demand for convenience foods and ready meals is continuously on the rise. In Spain, Cuinats Jotri (www.cuinatsjotri.com) addresses this growing segment with a mixture of products that stand out due to the craftsmanship with which they are made. This craftsmanship is also reflected in their packaging. We spoke with Mr. Josep Soler, Chief Executive Officer at Cuinats Jotri, about the company’s strategy and how SEALPAC equipment assists in achieving its image of high-quality, home-made convenience foods.
Cuinats Jotri was officially founded in 2001 by its current CEO, Mr. Josep Soler, and can be regarded as a true family company. Both his son (production) and daughter (finance) are active in the company today. However, the history of the company actually goes back to 1982, when the family first started a butchery. In 2001, due to the growing demand for convenience foods, the butcher’s activities were ceased and focus was shifted to ready meals. What started with supplying to acquainted partners slowly turned into a full service manufacturer delivering convenience foods to deli stores, butchers and catering companies.
To be able to keep up with the growth, in November 2013 Cuinats Jotri moved to its current facility in Juià, close to the city of Girona. Nowadays, Cuinats Jotri employs 50 people and achieves a production volume of approximately 700 tons per year. This is divided in around 200 tons of frozen product (which are sold under the brand name Origen) and 500 tons of fresh product (sold under the brand name Jotri). All these products are supplied to customers by means of Cuinats Jotri’s own vans.
Regardless whether fresh or frozen, what characterizes Cuinats Jotri’s products is the craftsmanship with which they are made. Where do you still see employees manually cutting, preparing and mashing tomatoes to make the best pasta sauce around? Josep Soler explains: “We are strongly known for our craftsmanship. Sometimes we try to modify our products, but customers somehow always ask us to stick with the original. For example, we thought it would be more convenient if we sold our pasta sauce in bottles. But as soon as we started supplying them, sales went down dramatically and we were asked to go back to our traditional thermoformer packs. We even have customers that ask us to supply packs without labels, so they can tell their customers the product was hand made in the store!”
Space-saving and flexible
Cuinats Jotri’s product portfolio consists of a large variety of convenience foods, such as risottos, lasagnes, soups, pastas and croquettes with different types of filling. In all cases, no additives or preservatives are used. In 2011, Cuinats Jotri acquired a SEALPAC A5 traysealer for packaging its ready meals, which was placed in its previous production facility. After moving to the new site in 2013, the company went looking for a thermoformer. Based on the excellent experience with the SEALPAC A5, Cuinats Jotri purchased an additional SEALPAC PRO14 thermoformer. This relatively new machine fit the company’s demands in terms of footprint and flexibility.
Due to the space in the new factory in Juià, Cuinats Jotri searched for a thermoformer with a small footprint yet sufficient loading area. They were advised by EMO S.A., distributor for SEALPAC traysealers and thermoformers in Spain and Portugal, to take a look at the PRO-series, which have been designed with exactly that in mind. Cuinats Jotrialso wanted to be able to run both rigid film modified atmosphere packaging and flexible film vacuum packaging, with the option of switching to a different pack height in as little downtime as possible. This is where SEALPAC’s quick exchange system from the side, available on all of its PRO-series thermoformers, proved beneficial. It allows the operators to change to a new pack format in just minutes.
Next to footprint and flexibility, the thermoformer also had to be synchronized with auxiliary equipment. A so-called EF labeller from ELS (European Labelling System) was built on top of the PRO14 thermoformer, which allows Cuinats Jotri to label the top film before sealing. In addition, depending on the type of product, a Dosimaq filling system is available for fully automated dosing of, for example, pasta sauce or soup into the formed packs. This filling system was placed on wheels and can easily be positioned over the thermoformer.
Optimal shelf life, more market reach
As no additives or preservatives are used, Cuinats Jotri’s fresh products have a shelf life of between 12 to 25 days. Most products are packaged under vacuum or by means of sealing only, although the company’s delicious croquettes are packaged under modified atmosphere, meaning that normal air is replaced by a gas mixture. As such, these products will have a shelf life of approximately 15 days. Cuinats Jotri primarily supplies its products to customers in the area.As Josep Soler concludes: “Further expansion to other regions in Spain, or even abroad, is in the back of our minds, but we will see how it goes in the coming years. In the meantime, we are planning to replace two older, locally produced traysealers, for which we will most likely turn to EMO and SEALPAC again!”