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CleanSmoke Offers More Options for Product Development

Interview with Hans-Joachim Kunkel and Bernd Hackethal


Hans-Joachim Kunkel, CEO of fish factory „Die Räucherei“ in Klein-Meckelsen (Lower-Saxony), and Bernd Hackethal, owner of the Hackethal Butchery in Dortmund, have been using the CleanSmoke method successfully for many years. In 1997, Kunkel changed his entire production to CleanSmoke, making his fish-processing company the first one in all of Germany with a licence to smoke with freshly produced smoke made of pre- purified primary smoke products. He was especially assured by the fact that the quality of the high-grade raw materials would not be compromised by contaminants like it is during the conventional smoking process. Despite the switch to CleanSmoke, the fish factory has not only kept its old customers, but won lots of new ones. Bernd Hackethal’s company, which boasts a long history, producing meat products and cold cuts in Dortmund-Wickede since 1898, completely converted its production to CleanSmoke in the mid-1980s. A conversion, which was necessary, back then turned the father of the current CEO into a pioneer of modern smoking processes in Germany. He did not regret his decision: The taste characteristics of meat and cold cut products that have been smoked with CleanSmoke are considerably milder, more pleasant and harmonious. The tart taste nuances that came with smoldering smoke products became history. Thanks to the fact that smoke from primary smoke products can be measured out more accurately, Hackethal was able to achieve a consistently high product quality. This convinced its long-time customers as well.

CSC: Mr. Hackethal, Mr. Kunkel, how long have you already been applying CleanSmoke?

Hackethal: We have been using CleanSmoke since the mid eighties. This had various reasons, one main reason being the proximity to plant manufacturer Bastra. They asked whether we would be interested in installing a test factory. After initial difficulties, which are pretty normal for any new technology, we were soon able to produce very good results.

Kunkel: By now, CleanSmoke has been applied in our factory for 20 years. In 1997, I went to IFFA (Note: international trade show for the meat industry) in Frankfurt to convince myself that those modern smoking processes are no good. However, as I went home I had a problem: my opinion had changed. Shortly after, I changed my entire production over to CleanSmoke. Initially, we kept the old factory to be on the safe side. But after two years I had it dismantled, because it was simply not being used anymore.

CSC: What were your first experiences with the new smoking process?

Kunkel: At the beginning, we experimented a lot. Some products worked well instantly, just like with the old method. Sometimes, however, there were some problems, because we didn’t quite have the right feel for how the process should work. Drying is a very important issue for example. With one type of fish, for which the colour didn’t quite work out, a regulation error helped, through which we blew in moisture. And all of a sudden, we reached the desired reaction, which in turned produced the right colour.

Hackethal: Like with all new processes, there were some difficulties at the beginning. It is mainly about adjusting the parameters correctly. For meat products, drying correctly before starting the smoking is key as well.

CSC: Do you experiment with the smoke from primary smoke condensate?

Hackethal: Of course, especially for new products. For example, when we require the traditional taste of Sauerland beech smoke (Note: Sauerland is a region in the south-eastern part of North Rhine-Westphalia). For this, we have been achieving good results with the smoke condensate SmokEz Enviro for 24 years now.

Kunkel: Primary smoke condensate gives us a lot more flexibility when it comes to product development, especially with regards to colour, texture or taste. This is simply not possible with conventional smoke production.

CSC: Which advantages did CleanSmoke achieve for the daily work?

Hackethal: The processes are a lot simpler because of standardisation. Another advantage is that, for example, less effort is required for cleaning.

Kunkel: Our shop is situated in an old farmhouse. Here we have advantages with regards to fire safety. Besides, without a reconstruction we would not have been able to continue working in the town centre due to the high pollution that comes with the old facilities. This was of vital importance.

CSC: Mr. Kunkel, you work for airline and hotel catering companies. Which part does smoking play there?

Kunkel: It is mainly about product quality. But of course it is important that we are able – depending on customer requests – to offer individually created products. One of our customers, the LSG in Frankfurt, is used by 70 airlines to supply their planes with food. They all appreciate our flexibility.

CSC: What speaks in favour of a breakthrough of CleanSmoke?

Hackethal: The customer decides. He needs to like the products. That is the main factor.

Kunkel: The taste is of course very important. But other aspects also play a part. It’s absolutely senseless that we devalue wild-caught salmon from Alaska, the best and cleanest fish protein there is, by adding toxins during conventional smoking. It should really be declared that we leave out any harmful substances. Luckily, more and more customers are interested in unpolluted and safe foods. That is a big advantage of CleanSmoke.