In the Place of Nebra, in the municipality of Porto do Son, we find a small canning plant. Sotavento is a family business created in 2016 to make canned artisan. It is not a canning more. It has several characteristics that differentiate it from the rest of the ones we can find in Galicia. The first is that here you can have an artisan packaging and using products almost exclusively from your area. The second is that, having Galicia as a tradition of women working in the canneries, it is strange to be able to see them at the command posts. Conservas Sotavento is an exception, since the management of the company is composed entirely of women. Therefore, the project was supported by the GALP Sustainable Coast. The company’s management is composed of a graduate in business administration and management, and a business management specialist. The sisters Eva González Lojo and Maika Pereira Lojo, who since childhood saw at home as their parents packed all kinds of products to ensure their conservation, decided to bring that family knowledge to the market.
Eva and Maika’s mother had always dedicated herself to the world of fish: first as a saleswoman and then working in the canneries in the Portosín area. What she was doing in the cannery moved her a little to the house. Between her and her husband, they made homemade preserves with surplus fish that their friends took with their boats. To be able to enjoy them throughout the year, they put them in tin cans. Eva, while studying abroad, was sent preserves that she shared with her acquaintances and “everyone loved them and asked where they could buy.” From repeatedly listening to this message, Eva González did the final job of her degree about “how to set up a canning plant”. After talking with her family, they decided that this would not be left alone in the papers of the University and were encouraged to start this project.
Its pillars are: raw material of fish and shellfish acquired in its environment; glass containers for the consumer to have the opportunity to see the merchandise, and the design. The use of glass in preserves is not an arbitrary choice. “The glass allows us to show the product from the first moment, without having to wait to open it to see the content. We believe it is important to know what you are buying, what the food you are going to buy looks like. ” Eva tells that crafts are linked to glass. In the packaging processes, the products are placed inside the containers. The cans allow the use of packing machines, which helps to mechanize the process. On the other hand, the glass does not allow, nowadays, the use of machinery for canning. Therefore, this package requires the delicacy of artisan hands to place the pieces inside the package one by one.
It is a canning that works a very small volume. This allows raising quality levels and being very demanding with what they pack. “Every sardine that goes in our boats has passed 4 times through our hands. There is never a fish in disrepair. We work with a super fresh raw material, but even parts that are poorly treated, we reject them. “As it is an artisanal product, they no longer enter a large-scale market, but instead look for delicatessen stores, where because of the price level they no longer need to skimp. “If you start trying to save costs, the result shows the difference. We use an extra virgin olive oil, because where we are placed in the market, we don’t need to lower the sales amount”.
They have 14 specialties in their preserves that move between the traditional lines (sardine in olive oil, natural seaweed, razors …) and the most innovative (mussels with Sotavento sauce, octopus with garlic), in addition to a line that has just take out this year, smoked (smoked sardine or “xureliño”). Their fish carry the fishing label kilometer 0 MarGalaica, except for cod and cocochas.The presence of women in the management of the company in the world of canning is something that is very striking. The great Galician canneries have a century and a half of life. The canning sector always had a large volume of female labor. The fishermen worked and their women worked in the cannery. Currently, 80% of the work in the canneries is done by women, but this is not seen in the management and management positions. In fact, Eva González points out that “whenever we go to the fairs, we are surrounded by men”. In Conservas Sotavento there are no men working directly, although Eva admits that they have her father’s ideas always “very present”.
After almost 4 years since they started the project, they understand that it is going “slowly”, since it is a long-term company. They were achieving goals they consider incredible, such as entering the Gourmet Club of El Corte Inglés, because delicatessen stores are their place of sale. Christmas is when the best sales arrive, precisely because of this condition of exceptional consumer product. They recognize that the benefits are not yet very high, but the company’s philosophy is non-negotiable. “If we now start to put in sardine can of Morocco with sunflower oil, Sotavento would no longer exist. If things are changing, I think they can only be for the better, ”says the head of production of this cannery.