How can an SME with just 12 employees place their articles in the best supermarkets in the world? The founder of Cecinas Nieto, Jose Nieto Blassurely he never imagined that the cecina that he elaborated with so much care in his town, Astorga, would end up being sold at the exquisite Harrod’s in London. Or at Globus, in Switzerland.
Neither did this former muleteer (those who once traded merchandise are known as) think that the firm would have the only 100% Halal cecina factory in Spain. “When we told our father that we had to set up a website or allocate resources to marketing, he did not see it, he did not understand why”, explains Conchi Nieto, responsible for Exports of Cecinas Nieto and currently in charge, together with his brother José Luis, of this Leonese SME.
His father was the founder, but the second generation is the one that has been in charge of making this artisanal delicacy known outside León and also, outside of Spain: 25% of its production goes outside our country, being Europe and the countries of the Gulf its main markets abroad. The muslim countries have always been among the main buyers of Cecinas Nieto (Middle East, Jordan, Morocco…).
Many of them, such as Arabia or Qatar, are extremely demanding with the preparation of the food they import: «Some countries, such as Morocco or Jordan, acquire products with the Halal seal that come from Halal certified production lines (even if they are in factories that are not 100% beef) but others, such as the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, require, to import these products, that the entire factory that has the Halal seal only produces beef. The trend in the demand for Halal exports is that the industry does not produce pork because for them it is a Haram product (prohibited) and there may be crossings of lines and thus generate cross contamination.«, explains Conchi Nieto.
Hence the idea of creating a 100% Halal production factory or launching a food line for this market, Alazan (which came to light last year), which includes cecina but also sausage and beef chorizo, in this case. According to the consulting firm Market Research Quest, the Halal market will grow to 1,400 million euros in 2023, with an annual increase of 6.5%, according to the Halal Institute, one of the main certifiers of this seal in our country.
Regarding beef jerky, which is the company’s flagship, they follow production methods totally handmade: cecina is a salted meat (not sausage) that only contains old beef or ox, salt and smoke. To smoke it, they use holm oak and oak firewood, which is what has always been used in the region, and salt from the marshes of Torrevieja.
Everything is done manually (except for the movement of the cow or ox legs, which is mechanized, considering that they are pieces that can weigh more than 500 kilos. The leg is cut by hand to obtain the four cuts with which the cecina is made: tapa, contra, babilla and hip.The salting, the surface treatment of the piece with Aove, etc. are also made by hand.
What is the secret of having managed to place your cecina in the best shop windows? “Tenacity, a lot of work and continue doing things with care. Artisanal production does not follow the same criteria as industrial production, we do not make screws but gourmet food and that means time, here the clock does not count”, says Nieto. Its premium cecina El Abuelo Maragato, in fact, is the only one on the market with more than 18 months of elaboration. And that shows in the mouth… Another element that has helped them position themselves in certain markets is attending fairs and not stopping trying to open new markets: “Singapore or Saudi Arabia, for example, are very cumbersome markets for their homologation”.
The third item you’ve given the accolade to your luxury product is to have certifications of very demanding quality and food safety: specifically, the Nietos have the certification HALAL, PGI CECINA DE LEON and IFS. The company has a production capacity of 250,000 kilos of Cecina de León PGI per year.