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Mantecados for Muslims

"At first glance, they look the same. Compare these two. Squeeze them with your finger. Do you notice? The main difference is in the texture, the halal ice cream is a little more compact." The Sevillian José María Gamito took the reins of the family business 20 years ago and, with them, the adventure of entering the Muslim market. For a decade, Productos Gamito has been manufacturing polvorones and mantecados according to the norms of Islam and expects to exceed 250,000 euros in sales this year out of a total turnover of 1.8 million.

With more than half a century of history, the company relied on the business vision of one of its distributors to explore this market. "The commercial alerted us that in Melilla the product attracted attention, but that many people did not buy it because it contained lard. He suggested that we investigate how to make it in another way. It was risky, but we had to try," recalls Gamito . The solution was to replace this ingredient with vegetable oil and fats. "We were investigating until we found a grease that was manipulable and adapted to our product," adds the businessman.

"In the case of roscos de vino, as Muslims cannot consume alcohol, we have replaced it with anise beans." After producing about 12,000 kilograms a year in the beginning, this year the forecasts rise to 150,000. "It's not bad at all if we take into account that in total we produce 700,000 kilograms of ice cream," he says.

With a staggered growth in these years, the definitive push came from the hand of the certificate that the Halal Institute grants to commercialize these products. "It is the recognition that we comply with all the requirements and for the consumer it is a guarantee," explains Gamito while explaining how the requirements to be met to renew the distinction each year are translated into the production chain. "We must have a kneader and cutter solely and exclusively to make halal, we must avoid that the product can be contaminated with lard", he explains. According to this body, in Spain only three other polvorones companies have this certificate (another two in Estepa and one in Antequera). In 2014, they reached 147,895 euros in turnover and the forecasts are to touch half a million euros this year. "At the beginning, we did notice the entry of these companies, but we have known how to distribute the market and continue to grow. In the first years, we were able to double production from one year to year. Now we are growing between 8% and 10%", Gamito points out.

Unlike traditional ice cream, halal are made throughout the year and help alleviate one of the main problems in this sector. "This market not only allows us to break with seasonality but also helps us to diversify the offer and retain employment," acknowledges the secretary of the Regulatory Council of Estepa, José María Fernández. "In the campaign, we work about 60 people in two shifts. Before halal, we closed for eight months, now we employ 15 people for another four months," explains Gamito. "Thanks to these sales we have been able to offset the decline experienced in the domestic market during the crisis," he adds.

Gamito Products only exports 7% of its production. "And it is mainly halal," says the businessman. In addition to selling in different parts of Spain such as Melilla, Ceuta or Barcelona, ​​the company works in European countries such as Holland, Belgium or France; and in Morocco. "In the latter case, expansion is complicated by high tariffs," says Gamito. "We are closing an agreement to reach Algeria. We have also initiated contacts to sell in Saudi Arabia or Dubai," he concludes.

ANTONIO J. MORA - SEVILLA - 12/20/2015

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