1. Background

2.- The principles

3.- Consolidation

4.- Expansion



Man is the only being of Creation that is able to take advantage of the elements of their environment, modifying them in such a way that they provide more benefits than those inherent in their natural state. To do this, it puts its faculties into play and is gaining with experience new knowledge that translates into new advances. So step by step, generation by generation, your achievements progress exponentially.

Among the first objectives of man, has always been the optimization of perishable resources consumed, mainly food. Hence, the means to preserve them when there are surpluses of them, so that they can be used when scarcity appears, has been an issue that has interested him.

The canning industry is part of the response that the experience of man has given to this need to balance their needs taking into account the productive cycles of Nature. But for this industry to exist, it needs previous ones to provide the appropriate means. And here we are to the metal industry.

Spain being a country rich in livestock resources, fisheries and agriculture, was also called to be in the industry of conservation. Therefore the metal sector also had to be important. It has been more than a century and a half since he began his journey. So enough generations have already passed – at least five – to have a perspective on its history. The same in Spain I think it is still to write, at least in some detail.

I do not have enough data to dare to write a history of the metal industry in Spain even if only in a very abbreviated way. Even so, I can not resist the temptation to present some notes in the form of notes that serve as a starting point for further work in more depth. Surely they will be full of faults and forgetfulness that will always be involuntary. I apologize in advance for all of them.

Clarification: Throughout the text, at the end of some paragraphs a series of calls numbered in parentheses are indicated, which at the end of each chapter expand the information of these paragraphs.





The background begins with the appearance in industrial form of tinplate in Spain. The same was known in the crafts but the first industrial installation for its manufacture begins to produce in the year 1731 in Andalusia reigning Felipe V, first Spanish Bourbon. Specifically in the town of Juzcar, located in the Serrania de Ronda in the province of Malaga and under the name “The never seen in Spain Real Factory Tin Sheet and its Adherents, reigning the always undefeated monarchs and Catholic kings Don Felipe and Mrs. Isabel Farnesio. “Of course, she had a” secret room “for tin-plating, which was done by German workers brought to the effect.

It should not be surprising that it is in this region and no further north where this activity begins. Andalusia was one of the first Spanish areas where the presence of technology and European capital was noted. Mining operations in the provinces of Almería, Huelva and Jaén are good proof of this. Its location in the Serranía de Ronda was possibly linked to the abundant presence of wood, needed as fuel.



Tin of the year 1,840

However, the use for the manufacture of packaging would not begin until very late in the following century. At the end of the 19th century – this time in the north of the peninsula – Altos Hornos y Basconia began the production of tinplate in view of the growing national demand of the canning industry.



In Spain, activity was initiated in the sector later than in the rest of the industrialized countries of Europe (England, France, Germany). There is a work already organized in the form of small family workshops in the second half of the 19th century. The first sectors where the use of metallic packaging began were in this order: A.- Canned fish. B.- Preserves vegetable. C.- Cookies, sweets and industrial.

Fish consumption is widespread in Western Europe, whose countries (France, the Netherlands, Portugal and, of course, Spain) have an important fishing fleet since ancient times. This business soon saw the possibilities presented by the preserved fish. The first news about this form of conservation came to Galicia from the hand of a French ship that was wrecked on the Costa de la Muerte in the year 1840. In that fishing area of ​​A Coruña, which already had a long family tradition in salting and smoked the sardine, that same year the first canning factory was installed, specializing in that fish, which was fried before being canned, fried sardines and lamprey, and Pickled oysters were the first foods that appeared packaged in the Spanish market. Later – in the early years of the twentieth century – it is discovered that it is better to bake the fish inside the can than to fry it previously, which simplifies and cheapens the process, spreading its use quickly.

A canning factory in the 19th century

In 1850, the first installation of canned vegetables in Spain appeared in La Rioja, the Gutóérrez de la Concha mountain in Logroño. The packaging of paprika powder, tomatoes or peppers opened the sector of this type of food. It started in La Rioja and Murcia soon followed. The small rectangular paprika cans of these first moments – some of them have reached us – are authentic works of art.

The manufactures of biscuit, candy or oil cans were from the beginning located in Catalonia. In this area there also emerged a series of mechanical workshops that manufactured presses and specialized machines for the sector being the cradle of this industry in Spain as were Blanch and Juan Capella in Badalona. The latter was founded in 1922. Today there are tin cans of cookies or candies from this era of great beauty that are museum pieces.

In Bilbao and in 1905 they began to manufacture the first can seamers. The Norwegian Johannes K. Somme, Norwegian consul in Bilbao, born in Stavanger, the most important canning center of the time, assembles a workshop and manufactures spare parts for the Norwegian and German seamers that he represented and sold in Spain and Portugal. His children and successors Jan, Carlos and Jacob, despite the wars, make their own models of seamers, presses, folding machines, shears, marine engines, irrigation pumps, gas generators, portable infiernillos for the front, etc. The company has more than 200 workers and manufactures more than 7,000 cans that export to the whole world. Nearly 100 years of SOMME SA closed definitively in 1990. Following the family tradition, his grandson founded JK SOMME SL in 1997, one of the largest manufacturers of can seamers worldwide.

The manufactured ones were evolving with the century and already in the “twenties” there were well organized industries equipped with modern equipment imported from Germany or North America that were able to produce cans at 120 containers / minute (½ Kg. Round) in different points of Spain. From this period, for example, in Catalonia: G. de Andrei and Blanch, Hispano-Lupcinski Metalgraphic Arts (1923); in La Rioja: Metalgraph Logroñesa family Orduña (Logroño 1924), Containers Valentín Álvarez (Calahorra 1924), Containers Vicente Berbes (Calahorra 1925) Metal Containers Moreno (Calahorra 1931) and other smaller; Barrenechea in Vizcaya, etc.

The rectangular containers were made by hand welding the side seam with manual welders of the “tinplate” type. The printing of the metal was done in flat sheet by sheet machines, then placed in carts with grids that were introduced in static ovens made of masonry that heated using wood as fuel. The designs were really a filigree, always drawings of line – without plot – whose photoliths were specifically “lithos”, that is to say stones – hence the name – attacked with acids.


Desktop press of the time



After the Civil War, the activity suffers a certain stagnation due to lack of demand capacity of the internal market and isolation from abroad. However, it had the positive part of necessarily promoting the development of its own resources. This is how more equipment manufacturers appear. For example Zenzano in shears (La Rioja) still remaining active others who began their activity much earlier as Blanch and Capella (Barcelona).

The manufacture of packaging is increasing little by little and with it the number of producers. Thus new manufacturers continue to appear in the geographical areas already listed, especially in La Rioja (among others Broqueta Berbes founded in 1942 by Felipe Broquetas and Mario Fernández, Envases Esteban Lana founded in 1943 …) Murcia and Catalonia that progress significantly. To them are added the Gibraltar Strait (fish), the Basque Country and Madrid. Companies such as G. de Andrei and Gines Llamas – a prestigious family business (1) – in Barcelona, ​​Metalsa en el Estrecho, Tinplate derivatives in Murcia, are examples of dynamism in this period.

Tab on bank

This last company was constituted in December of 1951 in Murcia promoted by the Association of Conserveros of the provinces of Albacete, Alicante and Murcia counting on the technical advice of the American American Can that was one of the main world companies of the sector. This was intended to cover a need for the canning industry in the area. (two)


(1) The Llamas family for three generations maintained the industrial activity of this company. The grandfather Gines Llamas Martinez created it in Badalona in the year 1923 under the initial name of “Hispano-Lupcinski Metalic Arts”. After the civil war – in 1956 – it changed to the name of Gines Llamas, greatly improving its facilities and specializing in quality industrial packaging (mineral oil and paints). The plant had the complete cycle including lithography and varnishing. The father took it to its maximum importance to arrive with the third generation to a period of readjustment and merger with other companies. He had an excellent technical team headed by engineer Sol.

(2) At the head of this Society was for a long time a woman: Pilar, who directed it with great capacity and efficiency, becoming a reference in the sector. She was a pioneer of her time because it was not frequent at that time to entrust women with management positions.



From the “fifties” onwards, the good performance of the market triggered the arrival of the first multinationals such as Carnaud (France) that, together with the main fish canneries in the Galician zone, set up Carnaud-Galicia in Corujo (Vigo). With this company, the manufacture of “decollage” type containers acquires a large volume by using fast lines to 200 minute containers with technology and own equipment (3). Also within the fishmonger sector there are some other important metaphors such as Megasa in Villagarcia de Arosa (4). In this sector the manufacturers of available machines – of free acquisition – in the market are French (Lubin and Sudry), Portuguese (Cerlei, Vulcano, Amorosa) and in smaller proportion Spanish (Somme – in Bilbao -, that was centered in the market of canneries for canneries).


 Manual engraver Blanch

Continental Can (USA), Carnaud (France) and Metal Box (England) join forces and take part in a very active metalwork that was born shortly before in Andalucía (Linares 1952) – named Olmesa (5) – and they begin a rapid expansion in Valencia – Cidesa (Cuart de Poblet 1961) (6) -, La Rioja – buying Metalgrafica Logroñesa in 1963 – and Sevilla – buying Unimasa (Dos Hermanas 1665) in 1968 – touching all segments of the market under the name Cía. International Packaging. This company introduces the “twist-off” caps as a novelty in Spain (7). The machinery used for both these caps and for the different conventional containers is their manufacture.

The area of ​​Murcia is growing strongly, standing out as the most aggressive and leading Sanchez Rex (Molina de Segura). Family business that will eventually build factories in Navarra (Murchante in La Rivera Navarra) and Extremadura (Montijo, Badajoz). Unfortunately, her life is not very long and she will be forced to close her doors after a series of economic and domestic problems (8). Vivancos (Murcia) was also created by the family of the same name in 1972 (9) – later Mivisa – which had its origin as an import tinplate storekeeper, a very strong market in that period due to national supply limitations. This industry maintained a firm evolution in the following decades becoming a reference for plant conservation in the late twentieth century. To achieve this, it was setting up new factories in other regions of Spain – (Aldeanueva de Ebro, La Rioja in 1989, Extremadura in 1993, in Murcia (2nd factory in Las Torres de Cotilla) in 1995, in Galicia in 1997 and finally in Asturias in 2002. – Along with Sánchez Rex and Vivancos, many other companies compete for the Murcian and even national market as Metalgráfica Murciana , Auxiliar Conservera (Molina de Segura 1961) … This latter company will later set up a second factory in Seville, which is not the time to make a list of all the companies, since we would distance ourselves from the purpose of these notes.

The equipment used was mostly imported from Italy where several manufacturers had developed simple machines but they gave a good service to the market. Bencini and La Meritermica can be cited in the low range and FMI and Cevolani with better quality, much of this equipment came to Spain through Ribeiro important equipment marketer.

Automatic press for round bottoms of the end of the “50”

A series of family businesses continue their development in the La Rioja area. Among them Envases Metálicos Moreno – which already has several decades of history – stands out for its good products and its production capacity, as a result of significant investments and expansion of facilities. They accompany him among others: Comercial de Envases, Ballujera, Broquetas -all of them located in Calahorra that is configured as the true capital of this industry in the North zone- also Menasa, Galan … All of them dedicated to vegetable canning containers with the exception of Commercial Packaging that preferably deals with the industrial sector (paintings). Next to it, in Casetas (Zaragoza) develops Grumetal, which with technical assistance from the French company Massillí, touches a wide range of products: aerosols, canning containers, capsules …

At the beginning of this period, in other areas of the peninsula with little tradition in this type of industries, some appear but certainly with little success and soon disappear from the market as they were: Unimasa started in Dos Hermanas (Seville) by a group of Canners that are dedicated to packaging for olive oil and vegetables, was soon purchased by Cidesa as already indicated above. Metalgrafica del Mediterráneo in Reus (Tarragona) founded by a major international olive oil packer and marketer (Simón Gari). After a few years it is also acquired by Cía. International Packaging (Cidesa).

Cerradora of rectangular containers of the time

  It is necessary to mention in its own right the specialized segments of the sector such as crown cap, aerosols and lithography.

As manufacturers of crown caps – the popular “plates” – two companies stand out: a) Iberian Crown Cap, multinational originating in North America – Zapata Hermanos – which assembles important facilities in Leganes (Madrid) and b) Metalinas another multinational of the same origin with two facilities – Bilbao and Getafe (Madrid) -; both develop quality products that reach great volume as a result of the increased consumption of bottled beers and beers. In Catalonia Vem de Tapas Metálicas develops as the main competitor of Cidesa in the manufacture of capsules type “twist-off” as well as the appropriate equipment for its closure on glass jars.

The aerosols are opening way as a very practical system of application of household products and cosmetics. Metalinas also stands out as manufacturer of these containers, then others join that market as Cía. International Packaging. They still use the tin-lead welding technique although they will soon introduce the electric one.

Lithography Section

Printing on metal is complex and requires high investments, so having facilities to do it is not available to small companies. This promotes the appearance of specialized companies that meet this need. Thus Cromometallics in Catalonia, Manuel Alemán in Murcia, Metalcolor (Calahorra 1963) and Litalsa in La Rioja and Artiscar in Galicia are companies that dedicate themselves to this activity exclusively and reach maturity during this time.

The raw material – tinplate – is basically provided by the two national steel mills: Altor Hornos and ENSIDESA. The first has behind it a long history and by this time manufactures tin plate “coke” – obtained by immersion in tin bath – but by the “sixties” it puts on the market the “electrolytic” type that will soon be the only one since it presents better properties. (10) (To learn more about tinplate we send you other sections of this Web).

ENSIDESA, on the other hand, is a recent steel industry that starts the manufacture of this product directly in the “electrolytic” type. The needs of the market are completed with import tinplate – almost all of European countries -, it is regulated by a series of means (quotas, quotas, tariffs, temporary imports …) that make it a complex task. This causes the appearance of specialists who dedicate themselves to it in the form of storekeepers.

Ship of a steel industry

It is worth making a brief reference to the auxiliary companies that with their supplies make possible the pull that the sector experienced during these years. The joints and compounds for covers are supplied by Grace – American multinational, the most important worldwide – based in Barcelona (11) and La Artistica – family business – in Vigo. Industrial containers use handles, necklaces, plugs … Emilio Canudas and later Jacob Berg – both from Catalonia – are the main suppliers. Monturas y Fornituras, which is also a Catalan company, specializes in aerosol valves. The list could be much longer, even more so if we mention the manufacturers of varnishes and inks, but we leave it here so as not to make the story too dense.

Rizadora and engomadota of low speed

The workshops dedicated to the construction of equipment increase in number and importance. So to those already indicated in the previous section, which are still active, others such as Ruibus (La Rioja) specialized in closers or Escobedo and Gonzalvez – Alcantarilla (Murcia) – play a much wider range. In tooling, Talleres Varas (Badalona) begins to stand out, which will consolidate with time as the best specialist in die making and cutting for the sector (12) and Workshops P. Ezquerra in San Adrián (Navarra) centered on seamers. Not all the workshops that began their journey in this period managed to consolidate, for example Comec, which was founded by the Swiss engineer Frendich – who had a very good experience in the metal industry, having been the outstanding technician of Metalgrafica del Mediterráneo – and He tried to sell his products by the hand of Manuel De Cepeda – another engineer who knew the sector very well, from the trader Echazarra – he did not manage to secure himself and ended up closing his doors leaving in the market some dozens of shears and certain prototypes of entalladoras and other machines Shortly after M. De Cepeda tries again the creation of another national company to follow the path started by Comec – manufacture of machinery and transport equipment – founding “Mara Workshops” in Madrid but neither does it get consolidated. Finally, in the nineties he manages to put his idea to work buying in Portugal the company Cerlei – Oporto – of great tradition in the manufacture of equipment. In these two decades, the manufacture of equipment for the coating and printing of tinplate in Spain is represented by Inghor – which builds continuous kilns – and more humbly by Talleres Ruiz who builds and repairs varnishes; both installed in Vizcaya.

At the beginning of this time, several metal companies – mainly those who worked for the conserve of fish – promoted the creation of an employers’ association that tried to help to solve the multiple necessities of the sector and was the voice of the same before the administrations of the State and the different national and international organizations, as well as achieving a minimum coordination in social policy. From this idea was born the Spanish Metal Association (AME). From then until today, it has carried out a worthy work in different fields, for example: as a member in forums where rules and regulations are defined: UNE, AENOR, Sefel, Euronorm …, in environmental policy, in labor relations, legal advice, etc. … Many are the people who have dedicated their time to a discreet but effective work and who are already part of the history of this association such as: Massó, De la Paz, Marín, Olivares and many others.

As a summary we could say that the 20 or 25 years that comprise the written period were very dynamic and expansive.


(3) Carnaud-Galicia had the contribution of two high-level French engineers, Chauven and Ledermat, who had been two great “decogalle” team designers who had brought this technology to its peak. During their stay in Spain, they turned this plant into the best level among those dedicated to fish packaging in France, Morocco, Algeria and other countries of the Carnaud group.

(4) Megasa belonged to the Rey family that insisted on the task of setting up a company specializing in the sector of packaging for the preservation of fish closely linked to the products of the sea of ​​those coasts. The King tried to evolve by offering at all times a product of quality and current technology.

(5) Olmesa – OleoMetalgrafica del Sur SA – was created under the economic support of the Plan Jaén – promoted by the government of the nation to improve the social conditions of this province – by the agrarian entrepreneurs Francisco Lubian and Alonso Torres. His original approach was to produce canned olives, for which they decided to manufacture their own containers, but later they started selling the cans they produced in their spare capacity and seeing that there was more demand in the packaging market than in the preserved olives. , they transformed the facilities to dedicate themselves exclusively to the metal industry. Given the lack of qualified human resources in the area, they hired some Catalan technicians. Juan Caballer stood out among them, a man of great experience from a Badalona mechanic who laid the foundations of what would be a very modern manufacturing plant for his time. Juan Caballer created a school, his children being the first to continue his trade. Years later they would go through other metal.

(6) As the development of Olmesa was very positive F. Lubian and A. Torres decided to take a geographical and technological leap, determining to set up a second factory in the Levant. To get economic and technological participation did not hesitate to travel to North America looking for an appropriate partner, this seen in the answer to the Spain of the late fifties should be considered a real business feat. They got Continental Can Co., a world leader in the sector at that time, interested in their project and also involved Metal Box – England – and Carnaud – France. This project materialized in a new plant in Cuart de Poblet (Valencia) dedicated at the moment exclusively to containers of vegetable preservation.

(7) The “twist-off” lid began to be manufactured in Spain in 1961 at the Olmesa plant in Linares (Jaén) and was the first license and technological support that Continental Can provided to this company. When the factory in Valencia – Cidesa was inaugurated – the production facility of these covers went to it. From the first moment, a young technician – Francisco Ascasibar – participated in this project, which over time would become the main driver of the development of this type of tapas in Spain and later in Europe always with this company.

(8) The Sánchez Rex brothers were the creators of this company. They equipped themselves with quite modern and fast equipment coming from Italy (Cevolani and FMI basically). After a period of brilliant activity with an accelerated expansion starting from Murcia to the other two strategic points of the vegetable preserve (La Rioja-Navarra and Extremadura) they entered a period of rapid deterioration. The important investments, a somewhat daring management and family problems – a traffic accident ended the life of one of the key family members for the business – bankrupted the Society.

(9) Miguel Vivancos and his brother, good connoisseurs of the tinplate business, set up this Society that slowly but firmly consolidated over the years, to become the main manufacturer of tin cans. The strong personality of Miguel Vivancos was well known in the sector during the last third of the 20th century. His delicate health and the absence of a young generation that took over led to the sale of the family business at a high price in the international market. Of course the moment chosen for its sale was the last master helm of this clairvoyant businessman.

(10) The effort made by the national steel industry to modernize its facilities and use the newest technology in the manufacture of tinplate was very meritorious. For these years highlights the brilliant work of a technician of Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, the engineer Joaquín Casado. Under his direction, the Echeverri factory started up important projects: Double reduced, cold rolled, continuous annealing, etc.

(11) The expansion of Grace in the national market was carried out under the impulse of Francisco Garay, extroverted manager of the same one arrived from North America, of Cuban origin, that settled definitively in Spain.

(12) Jaime Varas established a small mechanical workshop that specialized in the construction of matricaria, especially in dies for round and rectangular covers. The good quality of the same was the trick that little by little served to increase its clientele, first in the Catalan metal and then throughout Spain. His son Jaime and his son-in-law Franco Tamburini soon helped in the progress of the business and over time they were in charge of it. They expanded the facilities and improved the machine-tools, taking the Workshop to an excellent position in the market with international transcendence.

(To be continue)

Ver 2ª parte


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