Rotterdam Talks Food: Fish from around the world from the Spaanse Polder

By: Sharon Janmaat 06 Sep, 2017

From its base in the Spaanse Polder, Koninklijke Schmidt Zeevis imports high-quality fish from all parts of the world and then sends the fish out across the world. The search for suitable personnel continues to present challenges, but stimulates the local employment market. Schmidt Zeevis wants more people to eat fish and is also tapping into new target groups with the development of an app for top athletes. On World Food Day Rotterdam on 15 October, Schmidt Zeevis will showcase the true definition of quality, along with all the possibilities of fish.

Continuing the growth in the Spaanse Polder
On the Mainland, Schmidt Zeevis continues to transform further from fishmonger to industrial processor. The ‘store’ grew to include a total of five locations, with pallets that were stored as far as Berkel, Bleiswijk and Hazerswoude. Director Marcel van Breda explains, ‘Our most recent figures included 90 truck movements on the ring road in Rotterdam and 10 parking spots for 60 people. We were bursting at the seams. In the Spaanse Polder we have 1) everything under one roof, 2) internal efficiency and 3) improved techniques, including the highest possible food safety certificate, the BRC7. We now have over 2,000 in-house pallet spaces and room for further growth. We have a top location for supply and delivery purposes. The biggest advantage, in our opinion, is transport: It is now much easier for us to collect containers from the port and to dock in here. This means we are within the 80 km zone everywhere.’

Last year marked the company’s 100-year anniversary and it was officially crowned Koninklijke Schmidt Zeevis. Queen Maxima pulled the lever in the revamped head office – designed to mimic a marine blue sea-going vessel – and set the course ‘full-speed ahead’.

Schmidt-Zeevis fish

Fish species from around the world
The fish at Schmidt Zeevis is sourced from all corners of the globe, primarily lobster from Canada, yellowtail (hamachi) from Japan and frozen products from China. Our tuna is sourced from Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Our shrimp and prawn, which are always frozen, are imported from India and Bangladesh. Our monkfish, on the other hand, come from Norway and Scotland. The other fish species are imported from the rest of Europe and America.

The Dutch hotel and catering industry makes up the largest target market for Koninklijke Schmidt Zeevis. ‘We offer a wide range of fish products that meet the needs of hotels, restaurants and catering companies. In addition, we supply inexpensive fish to crew members on freight ships, have a food service for company restaurants and supply international cruise ships with frozen fish. The superyachts buy our luxurious products, like caviar and John Dory. Our products end up going all over the world.’ When asked about his favourites, the director answers with a grin, ‘Skate wing, langoustine, cod and sole. And yes, I get this question all the time…’

Schmidt-Zeevis fish

‘In the end, we want people to eat more fish. As a European country, the Netherlands consumes the least amount of fish per resident, even though the Netherlands has the largest fishing fleets.’

Marcel van Breda Director Koninklijke Schmidt Zeevis

Challenges related to finding suitable personnel
The director is quite clear about Schmidt Zeevis’ future in the Spaanse Polder. ‘One needs time to settle after a massive move like the one we’ve just undergone. Now that the relocationis out of the way, we’re aiming for a maximum of three to six percent organic growth per year. This industry still involves specialised workmanship, which means you need to have enough talent at your disposal to meet growing demand.’ Once in a while, the latter proves to be a real challenge in the Netherlands. Not only must employees be able to fillet the fish and distinguish between different types and quality grades, but they must also be vital enough to work in shifts. This is why the last round of new talent was manually selected in Portugal. ‘We went in search of suitable candidates in a few small towns. We rented an interview space at the local fishmonger and bought train tickets for those who were interested, so they could come and demonstrate their skills. In six weeks’ time, we had arranged the housing in the Netherlands and the group who made the selection started working in Rotterdam.’

Fish meets top sports
Schmidt has since also tapped into a new and trending market. ‘We are in the process of putting together a line of meals with Dutch Bodybuilding Champion Michael Bruijstens. An app was also developed for athletes and bodybuilders to accompany this new line of meals. The app shows you the exact number of calories and nutrients per fish type and quantity consumed and what you can still eat. We hope to reach top athletes this way,’ explains a proud Marcel van Breda.

Where are they found?
Those who want to visit Schmidt Zeevis in person can do so at Gastvrij Rotterdam (18 through 20 September) or on World Food Day Rotterdam (15 October). Marcel van Breda and his team gladly pass on the following to their visitors: ‘Firstly, we want to show what quality is. Fresh fish is great, but if you process it poorly and don’t store it correctly, you’ll compromise on quality. Of course, we also want to tell the visitors where we are located in Rotterdam. And we would like to show people that fish is an incredible product with countless possibilities and explain which fish types are in during which season. For example, we are starting to receive white sole again.’ He adds, ‘In the end, we want people to eat more fish’. ‘As a European country, the Netherlands consumes the least amount of fish per resident, even though the Netherlands has the largest fishing fleets. In my opinion, this stems from the sixties to the end of the eighties, when profit-driven practice and poor cooling techniques resulted in low-quality fish. The people who were kids back then don’t want to eat fish now because they remember the poor quality of those days. We notice that people keep on eating our fish because we use fresh cod and fresh oil for the fried fish. This explains why I like to be in the store: happy clients make me happy.’

His biggest wish? To let everyone know that Schmidt Zeevis has not become ‘too’ big. ‘I can tell you that this is definitely not the case. We are exactly the same company, only located somewhere else. In other words, stop by for a visit!’

Register here for the excursion during the World Food Day on 15 October.