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“The real key is to treat potato carefully, as if it were a fruit”

"The real key is to treat potato carefully, as if it were a fruit" JAVIER MELENDEZ. From a childhood in the countryside to running the first national potato operator, Potatoes Meléndez

JAVIER MELENDEZ. From a childhood in the countryside to running the first national potato operator, Potatoes Meléndez

A potato factory as the flagship of innovation for an entire sector? “Why not?”» Javier Meléndez, a leading entrepreneur in the fresh potato sector with his company Patatas Meléndez,based in Medina del Campo (Valladolid) has been asked in recent years. A company that does not beat in the face of adversity, and which in this difficult year 2020 will exceed 200,000 tonnes, will reach 20% market share,and its turnover is expected to increase by around 25%.

Everything in, by and for the field, the context that has given it everything. His childhood took place in Pedrosa del Rey,a small town in Valladolid, and in his family he has lived the craft of growing the land. He has never beena spectator: he always moved his curiosity and his desire to see the results to the different tasks of the field, which he has liked all their lives. That is why he is aware of the importance of origin and of treatingit delicatelyto “It is the real key: to work well in the field to obtain the highest quality and its best yields. And treat the potato carefully, as if it were a fruit”,explains Javier.

“Having the opportunity to bring value to my community is more than a fulfilled dream”

Quality is one of your skins, and a focus that moves you on every business decision. “In Patatas Meléndez we have implemented quality control mechanisms, and a project called ‘Continuous Improvement’. You could say we’re obsessed. And I speak in the plural because the whole team is very involved with this maxim,” he says.

Potatoes Meléndez is dedicated to selecting, packaging and distributing the best fresh potatoes. From the field to the table with careful traceability, measured to the millimeter. To ensure that the entire process is based on an excellent raw material, they have been thoroughly used to establish long-term collaboration agreements with national farmers to achieve a sustainable value chain. They are agreements that guarantee a fair price for their work,a guarantee for the farmer in terms of safety and stability, and that contributes decisively to the continued decanting of this crop”. Not for nothing in this campaign have the growing hectares increased by 20%. “We bet on the farmers here, and for the value of our land and our countryside. A field to which we are providing the best digitization tools that will allow us to know better the behavior of the crops and thereby achieve a greater professionalization of potato cultivation».

Commitment to innovation

What would be another pillar of your company? “Innovation, no doubt. At Patatas Meléndez we are committed to innovation with excellence as a horizon and motivation by flag, and not just in the field. We are in the middle of the construction of a factory that will be located in Industry 4.0. It will be a plant of 21,600 square meters reference in the sector with the most innovative technology and based on maximum efficiency”.

The new plant, which plans to open in 2022, will incorporate the digital transformation available in the market with installation of data utilization, IoT and learning machine processes. It will be, in a nut words, the most modern potato factory in Europe. Was it his dream? “It’s definitely one of the many dreams that move me to work every day. Although having this opportunity to bring value to my community is much more than a fulfilled dream”says Melendez.

La nueva nave en construcción en Patatas Meléndez.
The new ship under construction in Patatas Meléndez. / EL NORTE

Certainly, your company creates value and development in the region, where you plan to invest 25 million euros inthe coming year and ahalf. Patatas Meléndez provides stable andquality jobs in thearea,with 95% of the jobs performed by people from the rural environment. “In the first wave of the pandemic, in a context of triggered demand for our products, we had to reinforce shifts and expand equipment. Our workforce grew by 25%. Bittersweet moments, of course, but I know that for many people around us the crisis became an opportunity. I like to see it as the resurgence of essential foods,and its well-deserved departure to the top of mind of consumers,” he says.

Potato, aligned with trends

There is no doubt that healthy eating is a trend. Having healthy, fresh and natural foods is a staple in the pantries of all homes. “We have been very focused on the most informative part of our work for some time: sharing our knowledge about potatotypes: just as people know well which rice to use for each type of recipe, we work to publicize the different varieties and their best uses: frying, cooking, garnish, boiling…”. Lists.

In the labeling of Meléndez Potatoes this aspect is very present. In the company they are convinced that it is time to get to know the potatomore, that product so present in our lives and that it has great value, although sometimes as usual it has not been given the attention it deserves.

Moments with Leo Harlem

Now more than ever we have realized how important the moments lived around a table are. And precisely in that detail is fixed the new spot of Potatoes Meléndez on television. A campaign in which they have the comedian Leo Harlem, closely linked to Valladolid, as ambassador of his products. “We wanted to convey a close and optimistic message,and reflect what’s going on in many houses right now. We all want to try to make bad weather a good face,and it is perhaps the best way to deal with difficult times but we will all overcome together.”

El humorista Leo Harlem en uno de los spot de la firma.
Comedian Leo Harlem at one of the firm’s spots. /EL NORTE

Among the purposes of Patatas Meléndez is to continue to get closer to consumers,listening to them, knowing more about their needs and working to fill them with new products. “After all, our mission is to make available to all people the best fresh potatoes during the 365 days of the year,and that’s what keeps us in constant motion,” he says.

“Our mission is to make all the best potatoes available all year round”

Melendez takes this mission of putting first-need food on the table of all households very seriously. Solidarity is present in the development of your work and decisions. “This year we undertook a comprehensive plan of action and donations to alleviate the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. We have been donated more than 200,000 kilos of potatoes and we do not stop: these days we are sending 24,000 kilos to the Food Bank of Madrid», reports.

strategic thought that of Javier Meléndez applied to the field and, above all, to society, to its surroundings, to the territory. What would you say now to that son of Pedrosa del Rey who made eyes on the earth? “I would tell you that you do not know the amount of shared joys that will bring you to know the countryside and know how to work carefully and knowingly with the right people. And that surrounds the best of equipment: because you need to work with a good team to go further. And we’re showing that in Meléndez Potatoes.”