By Wendy Williams
SO dedicated is he to producing the finest quality herbs in Andalucia he hasn’t had a weekend off in the last 20 years.
But businessman Salvador Piedra, who celebrates his 50th birthday next week, certainly has a successful business to show for it.
Hortofruticola Piedra, located just outside Ronda, supplies aromatic herbs to some of the top restaurants in the region and has a longstanding contract with Corte Ingles.
“We have been here for 20 years and have grown bit by bit,” explained Piedra.
“In the beginning we offered more products but over time we have become more specialised.
Now we deal almost exclusively in aromatic herbs and baby vegetables.”
He added: “A lot of top restaurants on the Costa del Sol rely on us for their herbs but we actually don’t know which as we generally only deal with the wholesalers.
“The exception is in Ronda – because it is closer we deal directly with the restaurants, including the Parador, and at this stage we know all the chefs so they just call if they need something.”
This friendly approach and the insistence on always putting the client first have certainly helped the family business achieve success.
Now, with help from his wife Tere and daughter Nieves, 20, Salvador grows over 50 different types of herbs using an environmentally friendly ‘hydroponic’ method.
This involves growing his produce using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without using soil.
Many of his herbs are in fact grown in perlite – a natural amorphous volcanic glass – that retains a lot of water, helping to save gallons every month and encouraging the rapid growth of his herbs.
“With some of the herbs it is almost impossible to grow them in the ground as weeds also grow and drown them out,” Piedra explained.
“It is something that a lot of people cannot grow for themselves and there was a gap in the market.
“But there is no real secret to our success.
“The first thing is to enjoy what you do.
Then you have to try and find a product that is a little out of the ordinary that clients are looking for and you need to offer a good service and make sure that the produce is of the best possible quality.” He continued: “Quality is vital.
“I am not greedy, it is far more important to me to perfect what I have already, than have more.
“And we are not lacking in clients.
“We have around 25 big clients who have a lot of confidence in us and have been with us for a long time, in fact we haven’t had a new client in 10 years.
It is more important to perfect what I have already than have more
“We prefer to improve the service we offer to our existing clients so they always have confidence in us rather than go looking for lots of clients and let the service suffer.”
As it stands, the service is second to none, with the family business employing local workers to help out.
And, the herbs are even cut to order, ensuring they are as fresh as possible.
As a testament to his dedication to quality, Piedra is currently in discussion with Cortes Ingles to deliver direct to the stores – rather than a central distribution point – to ensure that it is as fresh as possible.
“Quality is paramount for us,” he added.