Bohlsen Räucherfisch invests in skinning machines from Steen

EM6 19 TECH Bohlsen SteenNew skinners are a hit with processing company

Germans consume some 13.5 kg of fish and seafood per capita, placing them at the lower end of the scale among European countries. While domestic production is some 268,00 tonnes, the country imports some 937,000 tonnes and exports about 587,000 tonnes.

Fish and seafood are consumed in several different form of which conserves are the most popular followed by deep frozen, fresh, and smoked. Within the country consumption varies from 4.2 kg per capita in Baden-Württemberg and Saarland in the south west to 6.1 kg in Bremen.

This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 6/2019.

Sustainably fished raw materials are an important criterion

In Cuxhaven near Bremen, the company Bohlsen Räucherfisch specialises in trading and processing fresh fish. Established 23 years ago in 1996, the company was taken over by two staff members, Patrick Vormeister and Dominic Engel, in 2016 and today employs some 20 people, a number that fluctuates slightly depending on the season. The activities are split into two divisions, fish processing and product distribution, of which the latter is to wholesalers and retailers in and around the region as well as to two restaurants affiliated to the company. The main raw materials are fish and seafood such as redfish, saithe, cod, and lumpfish that are processed into different products. As far as possible the fish is sourced from sustainable fisheries, says Mr Engel, and in the future we hope to be able to obtain all our raw material from sustainable sources. Currently, much of it is imported from Iceland, Norway, and Denmark and we process up to a tonne of raw material in the facility each day though this volume can vary depending on the season and catching conditions.

A skinner for flat fish and another for whitefish

Bohlsen Räucherfisch sells its production primarily on the German market with about a fifth going overseas mainly to other countries in central Europe. The clientele within Germany comprises delicatessen shops, wholesalers, and the food service sector. The company is very focused on quality, which starts with the raw material and is among the reasons for the investment in skinning equipment from the Belgian supplier Steen, buying two machines in the last three years that together have cost about EUR30,000. The two skinners, the ST111V and the ST600V, are used to skin flat fish and whitefish fillets respectively. Mr Engel is glowing in his praise for the Steen machines. They are highly user friendly and very safe to use, he says, the blades can be quickly and easily changed so that the skinning operation can be adapted to different kinds of fish to maximise the yield and deliver a high-quality end product. Cleaning and maintenance of the machine is straightforward, and Steen’s service and support has been very efficient, reliable, and friendly.

Productivity increases with new machines

The skinning machines offer other advantages too. Because they are so flexible, they could be purchased off the shelf, explains Mr Engel, without needing to be adapted in any way for the task at hand. They have enabled us to save on water, they are energy efficient, and productivity has increased since we started using them. The company would definitely buy machines from Steen again should the need arise, he adds. The investment in the skinners will allow Bohlsen to continue its “quality comes first” approach and to meet all the different requirements of its customers. A slight cause for concern, however, is the shortage of the highly skilled manual filleters that the company needs. When done by an expert, yields from hand filleting are high and the process uses little water thereby maintaining the excellence of the fish flesh and the high quality of the fillet, which is crucial for the company.

That apart, the new skinning machines from Steen are one of several strengths, which include a focus on quality, an extensive network of established customers, and a variety of fish specialities, that will serve Bohlsen well long into the future.