Red gold for the most demanding palates

  • Verdú-Cantó sells the most expensive saffron in the world, which reaches the Arab monarchies and is worth 8,000 euros per kilo

It all started back in the distant year 1886, when Jose Verdú he began to travel the Castilian plateau on horseback to select and market the best saffron batches. That was the embryo of Verdú-Cantó Saffron Spain, a family business located in the Alicante municipality of Novelda, which markets the most expensive variety of saffron in the world, with prices that can reach 8,000 euros per kilo. It is, of course, the most select category that can be found in the markets, and it only reaches specialized chefs and the most exclusive gourmet establishments at an international level, as well as the palaces of various Arab monarchies.

The company is the result of José Verdú’s association with his uncle José Cantó, at that time a wine dealer, who decided to explore together the possibilities of marketing saffron. The uncle ran the business from his office and the nephew was in charge of traveling through the fields of Castilla-La Mancha in search of the precious red gold. The high price of this unique spice forced him to carry a large amount of money with him, so to defend himself against the thugs who stalked him, he always carried a hunting gun on his horse’s rump. In fact, when the bandits appeared, he had no choice but to jump from his mount and defend himself with gunfire.

“130 years later we maintain the same export philosophy, with clients on five continents”

So remember Juan Luis Durá, current administrator of the company, who highlights that, since its inception, its corporate purpose was export. The first sales were destined for India, where saffron was used both in cooking and to dye fabrics, and even as incense in religious ceremonies. In fact, at the end of the 19th century the firm already had a permanent office in Bombay. “Curiously,” explains Durá, “more than 130 years later, we maintain the same export philosophy, with clients in 25 countries on five continents.”

And the secret of all this is in the raw material, a saffron that, in its most exclusive variety, the one produced in Castilla-La Mancha and with a designation of origin, has reached this campaign prices at source of 4,000 euros per kilo, which can be doubled in the market. “The price varies depending on the level of production of each year, and also, later, on the care in handling and the level of the presentations”, highlights the representative of the firm.

The variety in question has a certification that guarantees both the origin and the penetrating aroma, the delicious flavor and the unmistakable color of each strand. According Durá, “is aimed at specialized chefs and the most exclusive gourmet establishments in the world”. This is the case of Williams & Sonoma, in the United States; Breeze Center, in Taipei; Danube, in Saudi Arabia; Partridges, in London; or the palaces of the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf.

The administrator also emphasizes that “you have to collect 150 saffron flowers, one by one, and extract the three stigmas to get just one gram of this spice, so to get to one kilo, we have to go to the 150,000 flowers. For the rest, all the zeal put into cultivation, together with the harshness of the agricultural tasks and subsequent work, result in a product with exquisite organoleptic characteristics, which justify its being considered as saffron most expensive in the world. “

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Verdú-Cantó Saffron Spain sells around 5,000 kilos of this spice, of which only a small percentage, around 50, correspond to this variety. However, the company, over the years, has evolved, going from having saffron as the only article to incorporating a wide range of spices and presenting them in improved formats to preserve their quality and make them attractive to the consumer. According to Juan Luis Durá, “we were the first to develop new applications such as pre-mixed spice mills, and also pioneers in allocating them to the world of cocktails”.

The company has a workforce of 35 employees and invoices around 7 million euros per year, of which 50% correspond to sales abroad. The pandemic, moreover, has not had a negative impact on the firm, since, during the confinement of 2020, according to Durá, “many fell into the sweet temptation to dedicate themselves to baking or cooking in general, and that increased the use of spices in households “.

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