1908. The beginnings
The colonial warehouse.
A young man, a vision
Every story has a beginning. The Calvo Group story began the day Luis Calvo Sanz, at the tender age of 11, inherited along with his mother the family business called “Sons of J. Calvo”. That’s what the sign read for the small establishment run in downtown Carballo, a colonial storehouse that supplied oil, codfish and wine to members of the community in the region of Bergantiños.
At a time of upheaval due to wars, Luis Calvo Sanz focused on tinned food products. He first experimented with meat and then tried legumes and Asturian bean and pork stew; these first attempts, however, were neither prosperous nor easy. Then came the advice of a friend and industrialist from Vigo, who enlightened him regarding the future of canned fish and seafood. This young entrepreneur could never imagine that he would soon found a business that would go on to become one of the most important food companies in the world.
1940. The first factory. The Calvo brand is born.
A vision, an innovation
Humble, observant and self-taught are three ways to describe Luis Calvo’s essential traits. With relentless eagerness to grow and improve, in 1940 he travelled to Vigo along with Maruja, his wife, to visit José Figueroa, a local industrialist who managed a canning factory. This experience opened his eyes to pickling and the abundant quantity of fish that came to A Costa da Morte (The Coast of Death).
Back at home, work begins to start up a small factory under the surname of its founder as the brand name. And this is how Calvo canned seafood products were born.
Since then, perseverance in the desire to improve upon something inherently good and a strategy of commitment to technology in the century of the machine set the company’s course.
Such as was the conviction with respect to machines and technology that, following Maruja’s advice, Luis Calvo purchased an automatic kettle that boiled fish round the clock. This first innovation enabled him to process albacore with a workforce of between 45 and 60 people in order to meet a demand that was already higher than the production rate of the company’s first factory.
1956. A ground-breaking packager in Europe
What to invent using a coffee grinder and an artillery shell?
In 1956, with a prosperous factory in operation, Vigo was once again the source of inspiration for Luis Calvo’s creativity. He travelled there to see the system for packing fish in tins that a French company tried to introduce into the sector. The machine didn’t work, but it inspired our founder’s idea for developing his own system, which, this time, would be a success.
Parts from an old coffee grinder, a glue gun and an artillery shell were used to create Europe’s first can packing machine. Truly revolutionary. With a production capacity of 36 cans per minute, Calvo would change the Spanish and global canning industry forever.
This ‘high technology’ made it possible to export 1,000 crates of 12 2-kilo units to the United States. First-born José Luis, who was already part of the company’s management team, travelled throughout Europe to demonstrate how the new packing machine worked, as well as the different ways of treating fish for canning. He visited over 250 factories to delve into the secrets of the industry.
1964. Yellowfin tuna, another Calvo innovation for the market
That majestic yellow-finned fish
Halfway through the 60s, the Calvo brand continues to grow and pursue production improvements. On one of his many trips, José Luis Calvo discovered the yellowfin, a variety of tuna referred to as ‘white’ or ‘light’ tuna in Spanish terminology.
As a result of its flavour and appearance, this species was found to possess exceptional qualities for preparation intended for canning. And, once again, Calvo took the lead within the sector by adopting the yellowfin variety for preparation and commercialisation of canned tuna.
This decision, an enterprising one, but not without risks, would soon be backed by the market and consumers, who gladly added a new product to their shopping carts that would become the highest selling brand of canned tuna in Spain, enjoying a market share of close to 70%.
1965. A new tin, a revolutionary format
A successful move
Calvo celebrates its 25th anniversary and leads the canned food market in Spain thanks to its products prepared from quality raw material and its capacity to innovate. The next step taken was also a crucial one.
While all canned tuna was being sold in the traditional oval-shaped tin, Calvo once again revolutionised the sector in our country by importing the round tin format to commercialise newly released yellowfin tuna.
The initiative combined the novelty of the format with a new and attractive canned product option, and proved to be an unprecedented success.
Another giant step forward in Calvo’s history, driving innovation within the industry to achieve new forms of consumption that are affirmed over time. Today, 95 per cent of the canned tuna sold in our country comes in a round tin.
1977. Company-owned fleet of tuna and merchant vessels
Full steam ahead
Being the first to offer innovative products, including yellowfin tuna in a round tin, facilitated Calvo Group growth. Innovation proved the key.
In 1977, Manuel, one of the children of Luis Calvo Sanz and resident of Madrid, gave new impetus to company strategies. In keeping with his father’s teachings and Calvo’s characteristic and highly present philosophy, he decided to expand control over the supply of raw material.
With this aim in mind, he launched a proprietary fleet of vessels, which now comprises seven tuna vessels, two merchant ships and two support vessels. This fleet enables the Calvo Group to conduct direct tuna fishing activity and subsequently process and sell canned products, ensuring supply quantity and quality and preservation.
With a 200-tonne capacity, the Montecelo was the first vessel in the fleet to take Calvo to a new dimension within the industry.
1978. The first multi-pack packager
Better three at a time
Travel with the aim of learning and understanding working processes employed in other factories continues. On one such journey, José Luis Calvo discovers a machine that packages bottles of beer in packs of three in the Italian city of Parma.
And true to his spirit, he quickly implemented the system at the factory in Carballo. This is how the three-tin pack was born, an idea that caused a sensation and turned Calvo into the leading European brand in the tuna industry.
This was the way to sell a product with higher quality, lower cost for the manufacturer and a better price for the consumer. Italy and Japan emulated the packaging and the rest of the world would later follow suit.
Production and sales soared to levels that would have been inconceivable in the sector just a few years earlier.
1979. Innovating, in communication alike
Three words on television
At the end of the 70s, Calvo boasts an outstanding track record as the result of product, production and marketing innovations.
In this realm, Manuel Calvo, the third child of the company’s founder, once again hit the mark in taking the brand to the next level: television advertising.
For the first time, an industry brand creates advertisements and broadcasts them on the popular TV contest show called ‘Un, dos, tres’, with the two equally popular and “bald” actors Juanjo Menéndez and Jesús Puente playing the lead roles.
A dialogue that was both madcap and captivating-tuna, bald (calvo), of course-led to a rise in the brand’s awareness level from 16 to 90 per cent in just a few weeks. Calvo became the most widely known tuna canning business in Spain, and the company’s production rose to 671,000 crates, whilst likewise increasing sales by up to 40 per cent.
This year, Calvo’s consolidation as a sector leader sets off on a continuous forward-moving path.
1986. A new factory in Esteiro
From the heart of the Galician estuaries
The rise in Calvo’s notoriety and sales remains constant in the 80s. In 1986, the company opens its factory in Esteiro, found in the province of La Coruña. Located in the estuary of Muros, the facility takes up an area of 7,500 square metres, and at first employs 250 people.
Prepared and processed here are salads, sardines, mussels, calamari, tuna bellies and baby cuttlefish. New products are also tested here, including Asturian bean and pork stew, lentil soup, Galician broth and tuna-based pâtés. Barely a year before the opening of the new factory in Esteiro, Calvo Group production had surpassed the symbolic one-million crate barrier.
Having passed away in 1980 at the age of 83, Luis Calvo Sanz was unable to witness this. He left behind a family and a prosperous business poised to always look to the future.
1993. The Calvo Group goes multinational. The acquisition of Nostromo
Speaking a new language
This marks the beginning of the company’s years of international expansion. The Calvo Group has always sought to be alongside the best by creating alliances with leaders in every territory.
At the beginning of the 90s, Calvo enters the Italian market through the acquisition of the Nostromo brand. With a well-defined strategy: to manage strong, prestigious brands in key markets.
Nostromo is one of the fundamental flagships in food products in Italy; it ranks second amongst the country’s tuna brands and is the only brand to annually increase its market share. It is synonymous with quality. Nostromo products are packaged in the Grado factory, located in the northeastern region of the peninsula.
This constitutes a definitive step forward for the Calvo Group in its progress as an international leader in the canning sector.
2000. “Piltrafilla”, Calvo triumphant once again on television
You have to be quite the tunafish to be Calvo
Calvo has set the bar higher and higher with each advertising campaign. The 80s were extraordinary years for the trademark, which saw a continual rise in brand awareness and sales indexes, consolidating the company’s position of leadership.
In 1990, Calvo once again faces the challenge of creating fresh surprise through an ad campaign. And once again, Calvo will come through.
The surprising and captivating connection from the first yellowfin tuna advertisements achieved a media milestone with the ‘Piltrafilla’ campaign. The adjective would become part of people’s everyday language as a product of the television ads.
The Calvo brand had once again outdone itself. And people will recall the phrase that is now part of collective memory: Have you been to school, piltrafilla? And the fact is that you have to be quite the tunafish to be Calvo.
2001. Introducing the line of “low-sodium” products
Healthier, and with all the flavour
With the change to the new millennium, Calvo anticipates needs in order to meet the new demand of consumers who are becoming aware of the importance of daily nutritional care. The company’s response to this demand is its new low-sodium tuna, ideal for people who are worried about their blood pressure or have cardiovascular problems.
Enhanced well-being, with less salt and all of the flavour of Calvo products.
With its low-salt yellowfin tuna, Calvo guarantees a reduction of up to 80 per cent in the concentration of sodium, thanks to careful fish selection and processing. In the months ahead, Calvo will develop a complete line of products that are especially geared towards this new “low-sodium” consumer profile: yellowfin tuna packed in olive oil, yellowfin tuna in water, 100% fat-free yellowfin tuna, white albacore tuna packed in olive oil, sardines packed in olive oil, and more.
2003. Calvo’s new factory opens in El Salvador
A new millennium, new goals
It’s been ten years since the acquisition of Nostromo and international expansion continues. Growth is written into the Calvo Group’s DNA and the company sets its sights across the Atlantic. The goal is to be a leader not only in Spain or Europe, but throughout the world as well.
In 2003, the Calvo Group opens its new plant in El Salvador. More than 65,000 tonnes of fish are processed here each year to provide products to Central America, Mexico and the United States.
The factory is located in the town of La Unión. Also manufactured here now are the tins that ensure the highest finished product quality.
Thanks to this advance, around 50 markets worldwide are now able to benefit from Calvo products.
2004. Gomes da Costa joins the Calvo Group
International expansion continues throughout Brazil
Founded by Portuguese Rubem Gomes da Costa in 1954, the Brazilian company stands out for its specialisation and capacity for innovation, attributes it shares with the business founded by Luis Calvo Sanz and which position the company as a leader in canned seafood in South America.
The new acquisition catapults the Group in international markets. The Brazilian plant located in Itajái is a supplier to an extremely vast region.
Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and other South American countries, as well as regions of Asia and Africa, are now able to enjoy Calvo products.
The new millennium has just begun, and through vision, dedication and effort, the Calvo Group climbs to the top tier of major food companies, becoming a full-fledged member of the privileged group of the five most powerful canning companies in the world.
2007. The Year of Sacatunn
Que pen, que summun, que tun
2007 is the year of ‘Sacatunn’, yet another remarkable success in market publicity and image for the company.
Sacatunn is a hymn of pride. Expressed in fresh, young, modern and innovative language aimed at projecting the global model of experts in each stage of the process that enables consumers to enjoy first-class food products.
Sacatunn rejuvenates brand image and provides the group with the energy needed to undertake its definitive internationalisation project.
2009. Disembarking in China
Brilliant light from the Far East
The Group’s presence and brands have consolidated in the Americas, and Group trademarks are strengthened with Calvo at the helm. Asia is now the final challenge in the culmination of the globalisation project.
In 2009, the Calvo Group reaches an agreement with German food distributor Metro Group to commercialise its products in the Chinese market. This is just the first step toward medium- and long-term expansion into Asia.
Arriving in China will also represent the initiation of talks aimed at opening doors to Indian and Russian markets.
And as a continuation of the strategy for internationalisation carried out by the Group, these years see the commencement of commercial activities in 26 new countries. Calvo, Gomes da Costa and Nostromo products can now be found in shops in more than 70 countries around the globe.
2010. The image of the future
The birth of a global brand
Seventy years after the company was founded, Calvo is today a major global food brand. The time has come to rejuvenate the Calvo identity to accordingly reflect its international dimension.
The meaning behind a trademark is crucial in connecting a brand with its consumers. A logo is to a brand what a face is to a person. It should reflect all of the values in relation to tradition, quality and innovation which Calvo seeks to convey.
Hence, the logo unveiled in 2010. Perfectly recognisable. Profoundly reinvigorated. Ready to be identified and appreciated anywhere around the world.
Featuring new typographical definition. Clearer, more complicit. More closely connected to consumers. With a background design that projects the company’s new dynamics for facing the challenges of the market of the future.
2012. Championing Corporate Social Responsibility
More responsible, more competitive
Having become one of the key players in the global canned fish and seafood market, the Calvo Group also takes a leading role in commitment to and care for the marine environment and the social development of the communities where the company enjoys a presence.
Revolving around this philosophy whilst developing and offering healthy products, the company deems imperative attention to a set of areas of influence as part of the role it must play as a socially responsible business.
Since 2012, the Calvo Group carries out programmes in accordance with its Strategic Corporate Responsibility Plan which is focused on five cornerstones: People, Environmental Safety and Security, Community Engagement, Healthy Food and Nutrition and a Sustainable Supply.
Likewise, the Calvo Group Code of Business Ethics demonstrates the company’s firm belief in nourishing a responsible corporate culture amongst all personnel.
2014. Nutrition-driven vocation
Legitimate consumer demand
The technological and digital revolution is a sign of our times. And with this revolution come new consumer demands, especially in relation to information and quality assurance.
Calvo understands this to be a legitimate consumer claim and instruments have accordingly been developed to communicate with and engage in dialogue with consumers as a component of the fundamental added value a global food corporation should provide. Encompassing packaging, brand websites, customer service and social networks, the Calvo Group strives to provide more and better information on the origin and selection of raw materials, responsibility practices and the nutritional qualities and advantages of the company’s products.
Along the same lines, to ensure the highest standards of food quality, the company promotes a variety of projects involving collaboration with physicians, nutrition experts and organisations such as the Spanish Foundation for Nutrition.
2015. 75 years later
A milestone, a challenge. Celebrating a job well done
When Luis Calvo Sanz opened Calvo’s first facilities in Carballo in 1940, ours was merely yet another amongst hundreds of small canning businesses operating at the time in different areas of the region.
In 2015, the Calvo Group celebrated its 75th anniversary at the top of the industry’s world ranking. Each day, millions of people around the globe turn to our products for nourishment, putting their trust in us and acknowledging the guaranteed quality and convenience of our brands.
The perseverance demonstrated during the first years, our founder’s inexhaustible capacity for innovation, sensibly instilled into subsequent generations, the experience accumulated alongside our partners over the decades, continual painstaking attention to quality, as well as the sense of belonging and dedication of the men and women who work at every one our facilities and factories have opened the doors to a promising future.
Because the story of the food industry-dedicated Calvo Group has only just begun.
In 2015, the Calvo Group celebrated its 75th year of market presence. From the first factory located in the heart of Carballo, A Coruña to today, the history of this business group has been built upon ongoing innovation, the pursuit of quality and the dedication and effort of each and every person that has been a part of the company over the years.
This video will help you to learn more about the Calvo Group’s history through some of the company’s key players.