A small German smokehouse has made an international name for itself with special, culinary products. More than half of it’s assortment consists of salmon.
Die Räucherei -German for smokehouse – mainly supplies top gastronomy, which is prepared to pay for the higher price level. The trademark of Die Raucherei: consistent quality due to deep-frozen supply.
Hans-Joachim Kunkel, owner of Die Räucherei, was originally an agricultural engineer. Before he started Die Räucherei, he developed, among other things, fish food for a large feed company. In 1988 he followed his heart with the establishment of Die Räucherei, together with his wife Marion.
“What I wanted was to make real artisanal quality products with smoked fish. And I think I succeeded.”
Die Räucherei is located in Klein Meckelsen, exactly between Bremen and Hamburg. At Fish International in Bremen, where SalmonBusiness spoke to Kunkel, he has been an exhibitor since the very first edition. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. In the spacious stand of Die Räucherei, with counters full of beautiful products, acquaintances and strangers liked to taste its products.
“We produce 700 to 800 tons of fish a year,” says Kunkel. “Only quality products: salmon, cod, herring, halibut, tuna and shrimp. To a large extent smoked, but also raw: sashimi quality. Half of that consists of salmon and salmon products. Our farmed salmon comes from Norway, Scotland and Ireland. For our wild salmon we only work together with Seanna Seafoods, a small-scale fishing company from Alaska that fishes for coho salmon with long lines during the season. The owner, David Clarke, is married to a German woman, that’s how we got in touch with him”.
Seanna Seafoods fishes wild Coho salmon in season and freezes them on board before rigor mortis sets in. Kunkel: “That guarantees top quality fish and fits in perfectly with our vision and corporate philosophy.”
Wild salmon is a special product for Die Räucherei and in great demand by its customers. “In October, November, the new catch is here again. That’s what we tell our customers. It indicates a seasonal product, along the same line as beaujolais or maatjesherring. It’s a sort of story we like to tell. It’s very important for us and also for our customers.”
In Germany, Die Räucherei has approximately 400 customers in the top gastronomy sector.
“In addition to this, catering is one of our most important activities. We have 400 recipes in our portfolio, all developed for customers. We can offer standard products, but also ones tailor-made.”
Die Räucherei is very quality oriented, according to Kunkel. That’s why all products are only delivered frozen. “Everything you see here is only traded frozen, so it’s super fresh, right up to the customer. That is the basic philosophy of our company.”
“If you freeze a fish immediately, it’s fresh,” says Kunkels. “If fish is shock frozen and then defrosted properly, the quality is much better than that of chilled fish. After 24 to 48 hours or longer on ice on board a ship, fish is really not fresh anymore. The quality is already deteriorating. Just like salmon in vacuum.”
The shock frozen technique means that fresh fish is frozen up to -60 degrees Celcius directly after being caught. By freezing extremely quickly, the cell structure is not affected, with the result that the quality of the fish is guaranteed, explains Kunkel.
“Within three quarters of an hour we are able to get a product to the core below -60 degrees Celcius.
Frozen food is the quality characteristic of Die Räucherei, according to Kunkel.
“Just like our smoking process, which is still completely artisanal. German top gastronomy wants our products precisely for that reason. And that also applies to the First Class of well-known airlines and cruise ships, which we also supply. Our products have a duration of one year. This means that a hospitality company can offer its guests the same quality for a year. And because of this, we can deliver all over the world.”
“Our strength is that we are small and meet all the standards that exist. Halal, kosher, MSC, ASC, IFS and organic. We can make anything with fish. We are technically better than the big ones and we have a completely different offer. Morpol is the biggest salmon supplier. They can supply up to 130,000 tonnes. They can do what we can’t, and we don’t want to. We do 200 kilos according to our own recipe. We know everything about our raw material, from catch to delivery. And we have to! That’s our magic potion: we’re a small specialist and that’s our strength. Tailor-made in small quantities, that’s what the customers come to us for. And for that, they’re willing to pay.”