Baltijas Zivis 97 plans to expand the processing facility and to renovate the interior to increase production.
The Latvian seafood processing sector produces a wide variety of products based on locally sourced as well as imported raw materials. Although per capita consumption of fish and seafood at 16 kg per capita is below the EU average (23 kg/capita), local supermarkets offer an impressive range of products – canned, smoked, salted, marinated, and fresh using many different species.
Baltijas zivis – 97 was founded (in 1997) by Antonina Moisejenko, a fish technologist with many years of experience gained from working in a big fish processing factory. Originally the company manufactured five products that were exported to Russia, but then decided to develop the market in Latvia as a backup. Today the company produces over 150 products that are sold primarily on the domestic market with a small proportion exported to neighbouring countries (and none to Russia). The processing factory, a former farming collective, is located in the village Mandegas some 60 km north of Riga close to the highway, which is convenient for the trucks that deliver the raw material. Block frozen herring fillets and whole mackerel is imported from Norway primarily, though also from Iceland and Scotland, and forms the raw material used in the production. More recently the company has also been importing frozen squid from Peru to create a new product.
Atlantic herring and mackerel the main raw materials
The frozen blocks of herring fillets take 12 to 24 hours to thaw at 8 – 15°C temperature after which the fish is washed. Depending on the product that is to be prepared the raw material is then either marinated in a vinegar-based solution for 48 to 72 hours or salted in barrels. Kristina Antonenko, the company technologist, says that in total about 1.5 tonnes of raw material is processed in a day. Of this herring and mackerel make up the majority, while squid and Baltic herring constitute the rest. In contrast to the herring, which is delivered already processed into fillets, the mackerel is whole and is headed, gutted, and filleted in the factory. The waste – heads, guts, bones etc. – goes as raw materials to fish meal factories. The fillet production is done manually as that offers the best yields and currently the volumes are insufficient to justify investing in machines. In addition, the current location does not have enough space to install such equipment.
Herring and mackerel form the basis of a number of products. Both herring and mackerel are typically either salted or marinated, but in the case of mackerel some recipes call for first salting and then marinating. These recipes are usually developed by the company, but then are adapted to the customer’s preferences. Among the products the company has developed is one based on seaweed. The seaweed, laminaria, is imported dry from China washed to rehydrate it and then marinated. It is a very tasty salad, says Ms Antonenko, but because people are unfamiliar with eating seaweed, we have to educate them on the health benefits and the good taste before they will buy it. However, once they try it they usually like it. Marinated laminaria is not the only atypical product that the company makes. Another is squid meat balls. The squid is ground up and mixed with other ingredients giving a farcemeat that is then manually formed into spheres and then either fried or steamed.
The balls are then combined with a sauce to give the final product. The squid meat balls are among the most popular of the company’s palate of products.
All processing is done by hand
Baltic herring, a smaller version of the Atlantic herring is also among the raw materials the company uses. Latvia catches significant quantities of Baltic herring mainly in the Gulf of Riga, but also in the Baltic Sea. The total catch from both areas amounts to about 25,000 tonnes. At Baltijas Zivis both fresh and frozen Baltic herring is used in the production. The fresh fish is from a fishing company located in the vicinity whose vessels fish in the Gulf of Riga. In summer when fresh fish of the right quality is available the company buys whole Baltic herring as the quality is better than the frozen variety. The fish is processed differently from the Atlantic herring. In the case of Baltic herring the fish is made into butterfly fillets which are then rolled up and placed in containers that are topped up with a marinade and spices. To head and gut the fish and then remove the bones and make these rolls is highly labour intensive work. However, using the fresh raw material achieves two objectives: it has a positive impact on the quality of the final product, while on the other hand Ms Antonenko says it contributes to the development of the area by increasing the demand for labour. At other times of the year the company works with frozen Baltic herring that is already headed and gutted. This development is fairly recent however; until last year all the Baltic herring raw material was whole fish.
The production is distributed to the retail sector, all the supermarkets like Rimi, Maxima, and Stockmann, as well as to smaller fishmongers throughout the country. In 2003 and 2004 goods were also being exported to the US and Canada. Having been employed in the fish processing sector all her working life, Antonina Moisejenko has seen a number of changes in the Latvian market. The market has become bigger, she says, people are adding more fish to their diet, and we feel we cannot keep up with the demand. While most of the production is sold under the company’s own label, some products are manufactured with the supermarkets’ labels. The different products have different shelf lives, but on average shelf life varies from 30 to 60 days. The company has a new refrigerated storage facility, but the production in fact spends very little time there. We are responding to demand from our customers, explains Ms Antonenko, so when an order comes in we manufacture and ship almost immediately. For distribution within Latvia the company has its own fleet of vehicles that deliver the products around the country. In other cases the buyer may come to the factory and collect the goods itself.
|SIA Baltijas zivis – 97|
Ikrini, Mandegas, Skultes pag.
Commercial director: Mr Roman Doncenko (Contact person)
Director: Ms Antonina Moisejenko
|Raw materials: Atlantic herring, Atlantic mackerel, Baltic herring, laminaria, squid|
Volumes: 1.5 tonnes of raw material processed per day
Products: A range of smoked, salted, and marinated products; salads; squid meat balls
Markets: Latvia (95%), Lithuania, Estonia, Ireland
Customers: Retail chains, fishmongers
EU funds contribute to company expansion
The company has benefited from EU funds which it used to renovate the exterior of the factory some five years ago. Now, says Ms Antonenko, we are working on a project that will allow us to completely renovate the interior of the factory with the help of support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The plans include an extension to the processing area and more equipment so that the production volumes can be further increased and some of the production processes automated.