Roots smokehouse is planning on doubling its capacity in November to meet the rising demand for the Christmas holidays.
“We recently installed a new packaging machine and a slicer. We also ordered two more slicers and a new smoker with the same capacity as the two we already have. That way, we will be all set for the future,” says Jan-Willem Kuijt, who owns the company together with his son, Jan-Willem Kuijt junior.
The purchases are meant to secure capacity for the holidays, he explains.
“We smoke 24 hours a day, and we can produce almost everything,” Kuijt continues. “Whole sides, carved or long-sliced, or d-cut carved. And portion control slices in a range of weights, from 20 grams upwards.”
The company sells 99 percent of its products in the Netherlands.
“In the future, we also plan to sell to other European countries. We are working on Germany at the moment, since it’s only about 20 km from here, but that will take time.”
Hygiene takes top priority at Roots smokehouse.
“Salmon is food and people eat it, so hygiene is of the utmost importance. We recently received FSSC 22000 certification. As an extra precaution for our food safety processes, we work together with an external bureau, which takes samples every week.”
Christmas gift boxes
98 percent of the salmon that father and son smoke is from Norway. “The other 2 percent is wild salmon from Alaska. That percentage is growing. We sell it mainly to restaurants, hotels and fishmongers. Wild salmon is a very nice product on the side. You can see how the fish have lived by the differences in colour of the flesh. Personally, I really like the fattiness of farmed salmon, but wild salmon is special. It’s a good product for special occasions, particularly for Christmas.”
Christmas gifts are important to the company.
“From the start of our company, two years ago, we have put a lot of energy into salmon as a Christmas gift. Since then, our business has been growing steadily, and the increase in this segment is very important to us. Our promotional message in the Netherlands is: ‘Give your relations a nice piece of salmon!’ Christmas gifts are big business in the Netherlands ( – gifts given every Christmas by most Dutch companies to their employees and relations – editor). Usually, it’s a big box of items that don’t get used right away and will still be on the shelf at Easter. I think a Christmas gift should be eaten at Christmas or on New Year’s Eve at the latest, and salmon is perfect for that.”
That is why Roots is developing Christmas gift boxes with smaller quantities of salmon; no more than 700 or 800 grams, combined with, for example, smoked eel or halibut and a nice bottle of wine, he explains.
“That way you make sure people will actually eat it and appreciate it.”
The work for the Christmas season starts at the beginning of September, says Kuijt senior, when the first orders come in. Around November 15th, the company starts the preparation of the Christmas gift packages. Kuijt realizes the challenges related to gift boxes with fresh products.
“Fresh products like this need chilled transport and cool storage. It is challenging: you need space, you have to pack them, and make volume. Because of the cooling issue, a lot of companies are reluctant to give fresh salmon to their personnel and relations. But it is a very interesting trade, so we will keep focussing on that!”
Norwegian price push
Kuijt expects fresh farmed salmon prices to stay low for a while.
“There is a fight going on now between the Norwegians and the market. The Norwegians want to keep the prices up. But they have to get used to the fact that the available quantity is almost back to the level it was three years ago. At that time, with the salmon crisis in Chile, the supply from that country disappeared, and the prices went up. Now that Chile is back in the market and Scotland has increased its production, the prices will return to a normal level.”
He remembers the salmon prices in 2003: “Then the salmon made 16 NOK, around 2 euros. It’s been up as high as 64 NOK in the past years. That’s 9 euros!”
The agreement with the European commission in 2002, not to allow the export of Norwegian salmon if the price should fall below 2.30 euros, has been very profitable for Norwegian farmers, says Kuijt.
“That helped them grow. Norway would like to control biomass, but nature cannot always be controlled. The Norwegians are champions in ‘talking the prices up…’. That is, they are very good at finding reasons why prices should stay high. But right now, a lot of salmon in Norway is being harvested, and salmon from Chile is also coming this way. That will keep the prices down.”
read also: “Smoking is science”