In 1980, Francisco Arvana, an irreverent young man, acquired a rudimentary family unit with about 150 m², which marketed its products in a very small establishment in the Estremoz market. Thus Salsicharia Estremocense, Lda was born.
This small unit located at Rua de S. Pedro, well inside the city of Estremoz, with only three workers, was gradually unable to satisfy the growing number of customers due to the high quality of the presented products.
For 7 years, since 2012, SEL is ranked in the top 40 companies, the most competitive and dynamic in the food sector (meat products) and among the 1000 largest companies in Portugal, in general.
Today it employs 130 people and transforms an average of 45 tonnes of pork per week.
During our visit we interviewed Francisco Arvana and Hugo Calhordas, the export manager, who are both part of the management of a family business, increasingly focused on competitive international markets.
Since 1980 in the pork meat processing industry and manufacturing the traditional Portuguese smoked products. Is it a strong and growing business?
Hugo Calhordas – This is the reality and what we want!
Francisco Arvana- Many thanks to the collaborating staff who helped me grow in this industry.
Hugo Calhordas- We are 130 employees that day by day we give our best and that places us as the largest private company in the county of Estremoz and we want to grow even more and we have the capacity for such.
Is this sales growth related with the investment in the traditional Portuguese smoked products?
FA- That’s for sure. I created the company at the time of the “boom” of industrial sausages and the great change of the food industry, however we decided to make an investment in the traditional flavors of Alentejo.
HC- And that is what makes us grow in the market and I usually set an example, in the years that Portugal went through the great crisis in 2016, we did not detract from the line that Mr. Francisco already had, although we know that it is the most difficult way, at a time when everyone was trying to have the best price rate and it was not what we were looking for, despite having the capacity and the line to do it, and with that we established our position. We managed to overcome all the challenges and we have brought the company to another level now with the new project, which has about five years, and that is the brand VARANEGRA. It means that during the crisis period, we chose a difficult path. The reality is that the smoked ham in our country does not have the same expression that has in other countries, but it has given us fresh impetus at a commercial level in such a way that our humble and thoughtful first production was such a success that we had a stock break and an enviable end product quality. We have partners who raise the pigs and have been with us for many years and bring us the product that we want. We only deal with “field animals” and not with intensive breeding – raised in the open air, feeded with acorn, cereals and other products that nature provides and this gives us a completely different end product, in which the animal is slaughtered between 18 and 24 months.
Due to the increase of facilities and the fact that the Alentejo regional market was already headed by SEL, the company started to conquer the national and international markets. Should we discuss the international markets and what it stands for regarding SEL’s range of products?
Francisco Arvana – SEL in Portugal includes the markets of Ribatejo up to Algarve, being present in all of the commercial areas; Hugo Calhordas will talk about the export market…
Hugo Calhordas- Our export project started three years ago in an organized manner. I would say that our export started at SISAB PORTUGAL. Today our export department includes me and Mário Arvana and we began to go abroad, widen horizons, visit customers. We have reached the European market (we are currently in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, Italy, Romania). We started with the “nostalgia market” and we have conquered the European nostalgia market and between 2019 and 2021 we will start the “big distribution” and get involved in the chain of some big supermarkets. These are chains with 400 to 600 stores, no more, given that we are a family business and although we have the capacity, we also have to be aware of our dimension. In these three years we have been able to conquer markets such as Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau, and in China we are directly working with Macao and exporting represents 10% in our company and with a tendency to grow, as we say, and that is why we bet on SISAB PORTUGAL and we are going to be in the next edition in February of this year, where we await the visit of all who want to be our partners in the wide range of smoked products that we produce since we have merchandise for all segments of clients in territory with our 3 brands (top of the tower, SEL and Varanegra Gourmet).
We have the IFS Food certification process, a regulation recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), applicable to all food producers, which guarantees the safety and quality inherent in the brand. This certification involves audits of the quality system as well as the food safety of processes and products.
The motto is to continue to have – Products without additives and low salt content, maintaining all the Taste of Knowledge of Alentejo.