Based a little way outside Boulogne, Conegan forms one of the many links in the chain of processing and handling opportunities that this key seafood processing region offers. Conegan has been packing a wide variety of products to its customers’ specifications for more than 40 years, and there are some big industry names on that list.
‘The raw material we work with is not ours,’ stressed Conegan’s sales manager Aude Bouchard. ‘We package products for our customers and a vital element of this is to ensure that they get enhanced value from this.’
‘As a contract co-packer, we are located in the middle of the supply chain, sandwiched between importers and retailers, but also between the laboratory and cold storage.’
Packaging ranges from bags to cartons and vacuum packaging, as well as trays and skin packs. While Conegan handles a variety of foodstuffs, the bulk of the company’s work is with seafood and this is where it has a strong reputation. While the company is mainly active on the French market, it sees opportunities across Europe – as is evident from the names to be seen in the packaging areas – and its BRC certification means that Conegan can export production anywhere.
‘Conegan has the highest grade of certification, and this is vital. We also have organic certification, and that means that we have a big range of possibilities that we can offer to our customers.’
‘We package according to each customer’s specifications, but there is more to this than simply transferring raw material and placing it in a box. The raw material belongs to the customer and they are placing their trust in us, so we have a duty to handle it as well as we possibly can and we give customers a range of options to choose from,’ she said. ‘Understanding their requirements is crucial to this.’
‘It’s also vital that we get the best possible ratio of goods out to goods in, so that wastage is kept to an absolute minimum.’
Conegan was ahead of the game in terms of automation, and has for a number of years been using a robotic portioning system that scans and slices frozen fillets for packaging, ensuring that the best possible use is made of each fillet. This can be programmed to cut to a precise portion weight, or to be set within a particular range so that a fillet can be portioned as effectively as possible, minimising waste.
‘This was developed with a local engineering company,’ Aude Bouchard explained. ‘We did this because we saw a need to be inventive and creative in providing options for our customers, and we are looking at incorporating even more automation in our product handling to maintain our competitive lead,’ she said.