Sonntag, 8. Mai 2011

Did you ever think about how walnuts get into your bag in the supermarket?

I never before spent a second thinking about this topic while enjoying the lovely taste. While travelling through Chile I got the chance to spent a couple of days in a family house in the beautiful countryside area of Los Andes / San Felipe. It is situated in the middle of the Anden, a very sunny area which is famous for all kind of agricultural products - especially wine, walnuts and a lot of other vegetables and fruits. 
During my stay there I even visited and worked (!) in a walnut cracking fabric which was very interesting to see and to experience especially because you get a bit of an insight the life of the worker.
The fabric itself is a pure B2B company which has no direct contact to the final customer at all. It has around 100 employees who spend their day almost exclusively cracking and sorting walnuts. The walnuts are delivered in huge bags. As you can see in the pictures mainly women of all age levels are part of this team. The cracking and sorting itself is not that complicated, but in combination with assembly-line work, the noises of hammers and the pain in your hands it is a bit stressful after a while. (at least I got this impression).

Men carry the heavy walnut bags to where the women are working. The process of quality control is really strict. Everyone has to wear special clothes which cover almost the whole body. Finishing one big bag per day is set as a kind of general target for all workers.
The walnuts are sorted mainly by colour because this is more or less an indication of the quality of the taste and therefore also for the path they will follow for further processing. A special team is responsible to check the quality of all collections before it is prepared for delivering to companies who set up their orders.
I was unfortunately not allowed to take a lot of pictures so I can only provide a few impressions.
But of course I was not only interested in tasting the different flavours of walnuts - I also wanted to know if companies like this use the internet as a means of communication or as a selling channel at all. My initial assumption was right. So far internet does not play a role and the communication to their B2B customers is mainly via phone or personal contact. The walnuts are delivered in huge boxes to many countries around the globe with trucks, ships and even planes if necessary. Within a couple of days the produce arrives at the B2B customer for further processing. 

I got the chance to speak to the director of this company. Unfortunately my Spanish is "under development" and he and his team spoke no English at all. Therefore some information was inevitably lost in translation, This information would have contributed to the research I am doing here in South America.
Anyway - I doubt that we have similar factories in Germany so it was a good way to get an "insider view of the walnut bag" I buy in the supermarket on a regular basis :-)

Do you want to see a few more impressions? Then follow the link to the webalbum

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