Rafa Margós, en portada de el periódico El Mundo

Rafa Margós, on the cover of the newspaper El Mundo

Sep 27, 2023

Rafa Margós manages to send a paella made in Valencia, fired over wood, to any corner of the world

Monthly turnover has multiplied by 10 in a year and a half, and the prospects are unbeatable.

They say that a real paella, the kind made over wood, can only be had in certain places, and almost always in Valencia. Rafa Margós, possibly the best chef in the world when it comes to wood-fired paellas, always had the desire to take that unique flavor much further.

To know the beginning of the project, you have to go back to just over 30 years ago. "In 1990," explains Rafa, "my father set up a small paeller [a place to cook paellas] of about 10 meters, in which he installed between 12 and 14 paellas and it was very successful. Every year we had to expand the business, my father made some spectacular rice, but we were aware that our radius of action was 10 or 12 kilometers. And we began to think about how to take this product to other places."

It was about packaging the product and being able to distribute it. But it did not seem like an easy task, especially if we are talking about a product as specific as paella. "We asked food laboratories for help, but one of the first solutions they gave us seemed absurd: packaging in plastic. How were we going to do that? Nobody was going to eat rice packaged in plastic, so the idea didn't work for us and we continued searching".

They found the solution a few years later in cans. "An acquaintance taught me how to can and we started doing tests: we made the preparation, we bottled it and then we took it 15, 30 or 60 days later. And we saw that the result was excellent."

The beginnings were modest, because Rafa Margós makes the best paellas
in the world, "but I'm not an expert in sales or marketing, so that piece was missing to make the project grow." This master paeller then contacted Nacho Valor, a great connoisseur of the food industry and a specialist, precisely, in sales and marketing. "I visited the facilities and I was amazed at what they did," Nacho admits, "so I immediately joined the project, first as commercial director and, shortly after, as general director."

They had the product and also the way of packaging. In fact, Rafa Margós began testing from his restaurant in Denia, in 2017, "and we saw that the system could work." And then the push that the project needed came, even if it was a sudden, unexpected and forced push: the pandemic. "We had to close the restaurant, so we launched with this formula and created El Paeller."

The quality of Rafa Margós' product and Nacho Valor's business vision
caused an impressive takeoff of El Paeller. At its facilities in Chiva, in Valencia, "we have 97 linear meters of paella pans, 200 paella pans at a time, it is the largest paella pan in the world." And sales multiply year after year: "In 2021 we billed 200,000 euros; in 2022, €660,000; and this year, we will close at around 1.2 million euros," explains Nacho Valor. And they can't even make forecasts for future years. "In February 2022 we invoiced €12,000 per month; now, close to €120,000 per month, 10 times more. The product is finding a spectacular reception and it is impossible to know how far we can go."

What exactly does El Paeller market? "We make paellas in the traditional style, with firewood, and when we have made the broth and all the solid part [the meat, fish, mushrooms or the complement chosen for each paella], we stop the process and package it. That is, We stopped the kitchen just when we needed to add the rice. And they basically market two varieties of product: the broth for those who want to use it to cook their own dishes - packaged in a can or in glass, depending on the distribution channel - or the complete pack - broth with the solid part and a bag of rice - for those who want to take advantage of the entire process and prepare a paella in little time
more than 10 minutes.

Currently, Paeller has four fundamental distribution channels. Exports, which represent approximately 30% of income: the company sells to 21 countries in Europe, America and Asia , mainly. Secondly, the retail channel reaches many supermarket chains -Costco, Gadisa, the El Corte Inglés Gourmet Club, Consum, MásyMás ...- and accounts for another 30% of sales.

The third channel is that of the restaurant world -Horeca-, which accounts for another 30%. "In this case, we were totally reactive: hotels and restaurants started asking us for the product and we immediately saw that it was a great opportunity." And finally, online sales, through its own website or other market places, such as Amazon. This channel contributes 10% of sales.

El Paeller is in a phase of enormous growth, but they are keeping pace with production capacity. "We have just started working on a second production shift, the first one is already producing at full capacity - comments Nacho Valor -. With the evolution we have carried out, at least until the end of 2024 we have sufficient production capacity. From then on, we will have to study if we should expand it.

It has taken years, effort and imagination, but Rafa Margós, who has advised chefs like José Andrés and Quique Dacosta in setting up wood-burning ovens to cook paella, has managed to take his product to all corners of the planet. As he always wanted to do since his father started cooking paellas in the 90s.

Source: The World