Founded in 1853, Conserverie Chancerelle is the oldest sardine cannery in the world still in operation. This family business has managed to remain independent through the generations. With 150 million tins sold each year under its own Connétable, Lighthouse of Eckmuhl (organic brand), Belma (export brand,14% of sales are exported) labels and under private labels, for a turnover of €150M, it is today the leader in France for whole sardines with 39% market share and third largest in the tinned fish market with about 10% market share. Its recipe for success: product quality, traditional know-how mixed with modern manufacturing processes, innovation and investment.
Investments in Douarnenez and Morocco
Chancerelle relies on 2000 employees divided between its Douarnenez factory (800 people) and its two Moroccan sites that it uses to compensate for the lack of sardines off the French coast, although the cannery still sources 76% in France (60% in Bretagne). The Agadir site (1,000 people) processes and packages about half the Chancerelle requirements, which recently invested €4M in a second factory in Morocco, at Lâayoune. Chancerelle does not forget its Douarnenez site where it is investing a further €6M following a €3M investment in 2017. It is using this investment to modernise production lines, strengthen product analysis by X-rays and optimise thawing stages and maintenance processes.
Every day, the Douarnenez factory processes between 20 and 30 tonnes of sardines.
From April to November, fresh fish is delivered every morning from the auctions of Concarneau, Lorient, Saint-Guénolé/Penmarc’h, etc. This intake dictates the work for the day: fish size and quality and their fat content destine them for a particular recipe or label. The sardines pass through a bath of brined water to ensure homogeneous salt content. They are then gutted and eviscerated, washed, dried, then passed through an oil bath and drained for several hours before being tinned, always by hand with precise and quick gestures that guarantee the quality of the finished products This also means hiring staff when the activity increases. In 2018, Chancerelle thus increased its workforce from 725 to 800.
Living heritage company
The cannery’s know-how is based on a hand-processing of fish, a legacy of a tradition passed down from generation to generation for more than 165 years. This know-how has been rewarded by Chancerelle receiving the Living Heritage Company label. This label embodies a recognition for professionals who perpetuate traditional know-how, whatever it may be. They are often craft companies but can also sometimes be industrialists. The experts were convinced by “the implementation of meticulous manual know-how and the mastery of traditional techniques”. Conserverie Chancerelle thus joins 1,400 companies bearing this label.
Chancerelle’s success is also due to its ability to launch innovative and sustainable quality products on a regular basis. In 2018, the cannery launched under its Connétable brand skinless and boneless sardines to meet the expectations of ready-to-cook enthusiasts better, Label Rouge natural mackerel fillets and an exceptional range of sardines and tuna, Germon de Bretagne.
In line with consumer expectations for healthier and more responsible eating, a new range of eleven products has been launched in 2019. These include sardines (whole and fillets), mackerel (fillets) and tuna (pieces and rillettes) from sustainable fishing, cooked with organic ingredients (lemon, olive oil, tomatoes), less salt and less added fat, all prepared in Bretagne. Chancerelle is very committed to responsible fishing and CSR (corporate social responsibility): in 2018, 17% of its 150 million tins were certified as Label Rouge or MSC (guarantee of sustainable fishing practices), an increase of 50% since 2015.
Who’s the boss?
For the past few months, Chancerelle has been working with the “Who’s the Boss” brand which was looking to be involved in tinned sardines, after dairy products. This completely atypical brand entrusts consumers with the task of writing the product specifications for quality, good, healthy and responsible products via an online questionnaire. The aim is also to include the entire sector, from the fisherman to the manufacturer – fishermen’s remuneration, fishing location, fishing technique, sardine trimmings, freshness, type of cooking, calibre and weight – and to be able to explain to consumers transparently and educationally the impact that their choices may have on the product’s final selling price. This approach is in line with the values that Chancerelle stands up for on a daily basis to manufacture quality products.
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