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23 julio 2024

Laurel & Tomillo, entrepreneurs in rural areas: “We move canned food throughout Spain from a village of 35 inhabitants in Teruel”

The company has recently been awarded one of the grants offered by the PepsiCo Foundation, in collaboration with the Federation of Rural Women's Associations (FADEMUR). In Go Aragón we spoke with Susana Lahuerta, one of the partners.

For those who do not know you, what is Laurel & Thyme?

We are an agri-food company and we are dedicated to the creation of meat preserves, mainly, elaborated in a special way. We use ancient cooking techniques and apply them to our preserves. We are also producers of black truffle, we are dedicated to its cultivation and commercialization, both for private and professional customers.

How and when was this project born?

We have been in the market for four years, although the gestation of the idea started two years before. It arose because in my family there have always been rabbit farms and my mother and grandmother used to make an exquisite pickled rabbit. So, talking about it, we decided to start. The team is made up of three people -Andrea, who is more in charge of the kitchen; Ángel, in charge of logistics; and me, who is focused on marketing-. That’s how we started, and little by little we have been growing. At the beginning we had three products and now we have twenty-one.


Can we say, then, that the company’s evolution has been positive?

Yes, we have been innovating, adding local products, such as truffles and saffron from Teruel… because that is the company’s philosophy: betting on the territory. In fact, if we were to separate our product from the rural environment, it would make no sense. Our first premise was to offer an alternative product to a public concerned about sustainable food.

You offer a natural product, without preservatives or colorants… Is it easy to find such a quality standard in the market?

It is not easy and it is ironic because it is not necessary to put additives in the processing to maintain more color or flavor. The processes we use are slow, we cook at low temperature, the meats are marinated… these are ways of doing things that have been rescued from the local gastronomic tradition and that allow us to create a product that is one hundred percent natural. This, and the fact that all our products are gluten free, are our strong points.

You bet for the rural and the traditional, but you offer your products on the Internet and you ship all over Spain… I imagine that this combination is inevitable right now for the company to work.

Of course, the accessibility to our products is very easy. They can be found through the internet, through our website, or by professional customers. We are located in Lagueruela, a village in Teruel that has 35 inhabitants in winter, and at the moment we are focused on the national market. 90% of our sales go outside Aragon. We are present in almost all the provincial capitals, and our buyers mainly value the technique, the handmade elaboration, without additives, the slow cooking… and it is also funny that it is a product that comes from such a small village in the Jiloca region of Teruel.

You have recently been awarded one of the 5,000 euro grants from the PepsiCo Foundation. How did you receive this award?

With immense joy. For us it has meant a scholarship that is going to give us a great boost and also the repercussion it has had is important. That from such a small town in the province of Teruel, in such a small enterprise, we are recognized as an innovative project… it is exciting.

What was your winning project?

What we presented is a geolocation plan for truffle plantation management, which will be implemented in November 2022 when the harvesting campaign begins. This means that through a geolocation system we can have an X-ray with exhaustive information, done plant by plant, of all the truffle production information. This allows us to have a map of hot and cold truffle production zones at the end of the season. This project, obviously, was presented together with the preserves we produce.

The objective of these grants is to promote entrepreneurial projects led by women in rural areas. Do you think this is important?

I think it is very important because in rural areas there are very few job offers. Women are a fundamental part of the settlement of the population in rural areas, they help to generate wealth, jobs, contribute to social development within the rural world… Supporting women is a win-win situation for both men and women.

How has your experience as a woman in entrepreneurship been? Would you recommend it?

Very good. On a personal level, I did not find any difficulty when it came to entrepreneurship, on the contrary, everything was help and support from the administrations. What’s more, nowadays I think that women have more facilities for entrepreneurship than men, especially in rural areas. And would I recommend it? Absolutely and emphatically, yes. Entrepreneurship is a tremendously enriching experience, an experience of self-improvement, which makes you be constantly on the warpath. You cannot rest on your laurels.

You are located in Lagueruela, in Teruel. Have you faced any difficulties working in rural areas?

With the Internet and transport agencies you can be anywhere in the world. But one of the main difficulties has been precisely transportation. There are very few transport agencies to where we are. Also labor. There are times when the amount of work we have is multiplied. There is the pruning season, the harvest season… Summer is complicated for us because we have many open fronts. And the Christmas campaign is overwhelming. But we manage as best we can because it is difficult to find labor in rural areas. The next Christmas campaign, which we started to prepare in October, we will incorporate an employee for the first time.

And how was the project received in the village?

Wow! It generated expectations, it was very well received. The product has also made the area known, we have moved all over Spain from a village of 35 inhabitants and now surely someone else knows about it. The neighbors encourage you and support you, they buy from you, they recommend you… in the end, we all feel proud of initiatives like this in our land. They are a path to the future. The fact of maintaining jobs, of attracting population… Entrepreneurship in the rural town always has a positive impact.

If we think about the future, in which direction would you like Laurel & Tomillo to go?

We would like it to go towards diversification, that the company can have different activities, always linked to the rural environment. We have projects that we are going to start up little by little. In the rural world everything is still to be done and it always admits so many types of projects… One that we have in mind is the rehabilitation of an old winery to use it as a tasting room for agri-food products from Aragon. Reaching the international market is also a future plan.

Scholarships against depopulation, inequality and lack of opportunities

The aim of the ten grants awarded by the PepsiCo Foundation with FADEMUR is to reward business initiatives of rural entrepreneurs in Ruraltivity, linked to agriculture and the circular economy. The 5,000 euros in which they are valued are intended to contribute to addressing the main problems of the rural world “such as depopulation, inequality and lack of opportunities for women,” says Marta Puyuelo, Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability of PepsiCo.

“This was the first year we have awarded these grants, and we are very happy with the reception they have received. There have been 300 projects with great potential and scalability, which shows the great impetus of these women for entrepreneurship,” says Puyuelo, who also acknowledges feeling a great “satisfaction” for contributing “a grain of sand to help make the life projects of courageous, talented and enterprising women a reality”.

Likewise, Marta Puyuelo, also from Aragon, said to Go Aragón that giving the scholarship to Susana has been a “very special” pride for two reasons: “First, I myself am an Aragonese woman, so I fully understand Susana’s attachment to her hometown and her desire to start a business from there. And secondly, because over the last few months I have been able to accompany her and her project through Ruraltivity’s ‘Sponsor an entrepreneur’ program in collaboration with our Foundation, and it has been a real pleasure. From the first moment, I was captivated by Susana’s vitality, and all the passion and effort behind her business. I think this project has all the ingredients to make the small town of Laguerela in Teruel shine”.

Learn about other unique projects like Tomillo & Laurel

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