From honey to jams and marmalade and Dulce de leche, the growth of Argentina’s Estancia Las Quinas is built on the quality of the products, consumer trust, and a commitment to organic positioning.
After winning the crown of “Best Honey of the World” by Apimondia in 2011, founder Ricardo Parra decided to expand the product line but always keeping the values of the company. The portfolio now includes jams and Dulce de leche (milk caramel) with organic certification.
“Our philosophy is to integrate the producer into the value chain. From next year on our goal is to include the producer's logo and its real story in our products. As the commitment is made by everyone, we want the benefits to be mutual too,” said Parra.
Argentina is an ideal places to produce and certify organic honey from a variety of flowers and trees, like lemon, eucalyptus, carob and others. Estancia Las Quinas has 1,200 hives, and the honey is then fed to their own processing plant, which produces different types of honey including the creamy organic one developed by Parra. Additionally it is a raw honey (which ensures the permanence of enzymes, e.g.) that is produced using nine times less energy compared to others, since it neither melts, homogenizes or pasteurizes during its process.
Commitment to quality
The company’s values include better product, continuous improvement, care of the environment, strong commitment to the fair, equitable development of people, and solidarity and social action, respecting the uses and customs that contribute to human growth.
These corporate values are validated by the most prestigious certifiers.
“Our products have been organic certified by the International Agricultural Organization (OIA’s, member of the Directory of IFOAM-International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), and in the case of our honey we have obtained the German BIO certification, which is the strictest and most recognized in the world. We also have Kosher UK Passover certification for all the year and Halal Certification (food allowed by Islamic law), among others,” said Parra.
“Our plant and products are certified as Gluten Free and we are also certified as a B Company. We are a triple impact company (social responsibility, fair trade and sustainability) and starting from this we are a company with a purpose,” he added.
Parra also values being reliable for buyers abroad. “We want them to trust our products, that’s why we attach great importance to certifications,” he says. For example, being a B Company reflects the commitment of Estancia Las Quinas to demonstrate they can be an agent of change and contribute to the solution of major social and environmental problems.
Products, sales and commercial channels
The company also offers a range of organic jams from pieces of fruit at the right point of maturation, sweetened with organic sugar or grape must. And, a "classic’s classic": the Dulce de leche (milk caramel), a product that identifies Argentina worldwide.
For its preparation, the company uses exclusively milk from a neighboring dairy farm in the area, whose owner “shares our love for the people and the countryside”, according to Parra. And for those who cannot consume sugar, they developed especially a version sweetened with stevia or sucralose.
“Our secret lies in having the requirement of the industrial production, but always retaining the craftsmanship,” says Parra.
Exports and domestic market
Estancia Las Quinas products are exported to USA, northern Europe (mainly Denmark and Germany) and Japan. “The experience with Japan was a very interesting one, because although it is a difficult market to enter, once the first sale is achieved the possibilities are endless: it is like sailing in an ocean without obstacles. In the case of our Dulce de Leche, we had to adapt the product to the Japanese palate, elaborating it with a lower percentage of Brix degrees,” said Parra.
Parra started his professional career in finance, but decided to focus on the production of certified organic, healthy products about 15 years ago.
Encouraged by his sister who lived in Germany and endorsed by strong figures (Argentina is the third world producer of honey, the first world producer of Dulce de leche (milk caramel) and a major consumer of jams (more than 1 kilo/inhabitant/year), Parra began to think what he could produce.
Parra studied the subject of beekeeping in-depth, and found that Germany was a large honey importer, but in bulk, while Ricardo's aspiration was to produce a packaged high quality honey, contemplating three aspects: health care, the environment and society.
Therefore he began to produce in General Las Heras, a small town in the province of Buenos Aires, different types of certified organic honey under the name of Estancia Las Quinas, managing also to give work to the local people. Years later, his concern for environmentally-friendly production led him to preside over the Argentine Organic Production Movement (MAPO).
Nowadays his manufacturing plant uses the latest technology in machines to extract, process and package the honey. It also has a modern laboratory to carry on an exhaustive analysis of the whole process, achieving in this way an integral control over the raw materials and the final product. The company has obtained some very important certifications like ISO 22000 (Food Safety Management System) granted by SGS and accredited by UKAS of England.
This norm, added to the recent recognition by the Argentine National Service of Health and Agri-Food Quality (SENASA) of the HACCP system (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), according to the general guidelines established by the European Union (an essential requirement to operate in the European market), allows the company and its production to meet the highest standards of quality and food safety worldwide.