Ahumados Domínguez CEO: “We have to keep making each salmon as if it were unique”

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Ahumados Domínguez’s founder sold his Vespa 50 years to start what is now one of Spain’s most well known smoked salmon companies. 

Ahumados Domínguez CEO Pedro Mestanza on how his company has been at the forefront of salmon in Spain since the 1960’s.

Vespa
For a humble 7,250 pesetas (43 euros) José Mestanza Domínguez decided to trade in his trusty old Vespa moped to get into the smoked salmon game. At that time, smoked salmon was a virtually unknown product in Spain, so it was in some cases frozen and even fried. So armed its some wild salmon from Asturia in North West Spain, José (Pedro’s father) set up Ahumados Domínguez in 1962.

Today, Madrid-based Ahumados Domínguez produces 1800 tonnes per year of smoked salmon and sells about 78 tonnes per year in Spain in large stores such as El Corte Inglés as well as in San Miguel in Madrid, one of the most important wholesale food markets in Europe.

Mestanza explained that the company that his father set up 50-years-ago spread because of its popularity with hoteliers.

Hospitality
“Slow Smoked Dominguez’s salmon began to become popular in the hospitality scene in Madrid, afterwards it expanded nationally. Since then the product and its consumption were extended in the country,” he said.

This was no mean feat at the time. In an interview with Expansion, Mestanza Jr recalled that average price of the kilo of smoked salmon was around 600 euros in post war Spain, practically of reach to many on around 30 euros a month. In order for his salmon to reach the everyman, Mestanza Sr. decided to boost sales in the hospitality industry.

José Mestanza Domínguez. PHOTO: Ahumados Domínguez

“As the purchasing power after the war was low, and people did not have the capacity to buy a kilo of smoked salmon in the store, they offered the possibility to try it as a cover in different restaurants,” he told the publication.

Secret formula
“Today, we continue to produce our salmon exactly like the first day, manually and keeping our secret formula unchanged. Technology is a necessary tool in the evolution of our brand, especially within our quality control department, and to be a “Dominguez Salmon”, we have to keep making each salmon as if it were unique,” explained Mestanza Jr to SalmonBusiness.

What can you tell us about your unique smoking process?
“Our smoking process is the same as it was in 1960 when Mr Dominguez created the formula that made us different. It is known for the extremely delicate flavour or aromatised rather than smoked. The human factor, dedication, and the fact of practically customizing are vital for “a Dominguez”.

“However, innovation is in the DNA of this brand, and as part of it, it is also helping us to improve and support our work throughout technology, such as having the best packaging in the market – to keep the product at its maximum freshness- or with an ozone machine, to disinfect the raw material, without affecting its taste or texture.” he said.

Mestanza said that anything more than that was a closely guarded family secret.

“As for the details about the type of wood we use to smoke, the smoking times or the temperature that our ovens reach, this is data that are part of the secret of our process and they never leave this house,” he said.

Smoked Salmon tartar
Mestanza Jr said that this year it was expanding into a new range following the success of a new Smoked Salmon tartar with avocado, for catering and in containers of 500g which “have been well above the estimated forecast”.

“Soon, the new “Special Sashimi” pack with fresh soft soy sauce will be released. A limited-edition composed of smoked salmon cut into sashimi and accompanied by our new fresh sauce, the fourth in our selection,” he added.