Rocío Antón. Journalist. @rocio_anton
Five small Basque companies have joined their export departments to position their products in Europe. When they operated individually, their international presence was "very scant and insignificant"; however, now these five gourmet food and beverage companies are focused on the US, Japan and Brazil.
Since its creation in 2011, Basque Flavour Export Consortium has obtained an excellent foothold abroad. Member companies include Rioja Alavesa Altún and Txakoli Oxinbaltza wineries, cider specialist Saizar, canning company Salanort, and Gorrotxategi, known for its chocolate and turrón.
Iker Guzmán, who leads the consortium and spearheaded this initiative, told Wiki Spanish Food: "Individually, internationalization was quite difficult, so we decided to join forces".
This initiative has enabled the five member companies to expand into other countries and also to capitalize on their provenance by promoting "Basque flavors". In fact, Basque Flavour aims to export not only delicatessen products, but also to raise awareness about typical Basque flavors on a global scale.
According to Guzmán, Basque products have a "very positive" image abroad, although in some countries "they are still not very well-known, and significant communication and promotional efforts are required".
The consortium, which is open to including more companies, is already operating in Germany, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Slovenia and Russia, and in the coming years it plans to enter Poland and to test out new markets such as Mexico, Brazil, Japan and the US.
The managing director of Basque Flavour highlighted that total exports of the five companies increased by 20% in 2013 compared with 2012, and the outlook for 2014 is even better: sales outside Spain are expected to increase by around 25%. "The Basque Flavour brand has been extremely well received", says Guzmán.
Basque Flavour: who's who
Quality, artisan production and the combination of tradition and innovation are the defining characteristics shared by the five companies, almost all of which are family-owned and based in different parts of the Basque Country.
The third-generation of the Gorrotxategis are behind the confectioner, which is located in Tolosa (Gipuzkoa) and specializes in cakes, frosting, bonbons and turrón, among other sweets. Its goal is to "produce a top-flight product, with the best raw materials and in luxury packaging" to guarantee an optimal experience.
Sidras Saizar, founded by the Lertxundi family in the '70s in Usúrbil (Gipuzkoa), has become one of the largest cider producers in Spain and is firmly focused on expanding abroad. According to the company, other countries are opening up to cider, which "is going to experience notable growth in the near future".
Salanort, in Guetaria (Gipuzkoa), sells canned fish products (anchovies, albacore tuna, octopus, small sardines, etc.) This is a family-run canning company that combines artisan techniques with "the most modern technology and the most rigorous quality controls" to ensure the best traceability.
José Antonio Martínez, owner of Bodegas Altín, in Baños de Ebro (Álava), started selecting vineyards 1989. Since then, he has endeavored to make "top quality" wines at the facilities he designed, where "innovation and tradition lead to quality". The company has 45 hectares of own vineyards.
Txakoli Oxinbaltza, founded in 2004 by Azloa Oxinbaltza in Múgica (Biscay), is also a firm believer that "quality viticulture yields great wines". The company has a limited production capacity due to the vineyard's physical and technical difficulties (23 hectares on a slope), with the result that "every effort is made to obtain the highest quality grape possible".