Albert Smit first started the trade in stockfish in an existing factory appropriately called ‘De Twee Stokvissen’ (‘The Two Stockfish’). This prime location on the Brouwersgracht in Amsterdam held a big logistical advantage and contained the necessary facilities to make this venture a success.
Previously, the premises was used to trade stockfish as well but as the previous owners moved on to other activities, A. Smit & Zoon thrived in the trade all the way up to the 20th century.
They enjoyed the advantage that this product was barely subject to competition. Fresh fish was hard to transport and there was no sign of rapid transports yet. Stockfish was also easy to preserve and made up a nutritional meal for undemanding eaters. But its most valuable advantage was probably its low pricing which made the stock fish the commons food of the time.
Besides the local trade, Albert Smit also flourished in exporting. As a former Captain he knew like no other which of his former colleagues he could trust to trade his stockfish for foreign goods that could peak the interest of the Dutch as well.
Up to about 1890, the stockfish was fully processed manually. After that mechanical and electrical evolution allowed a more efficient production process which was supported by an increased turnover year after year.
Starting as early as the year 1756, historical documents mention A. Smit & Zoon’s activity in the importation of cod liver oil. The production of this oil was off course in no way comparable with the production process of today. In those times the fresh cod livers were put into barrels and after pressing the oil was left to settle. The clear oil was mostly used for medicinal purposes and the lesser quality oil was used as a fatliquor for the leather industry. The remaining liver was cooked again and this product could then be used for greasing the water boots of the citizens in the wetlands of the Netherlands but also formed the base of the expansion into the veterinary industry.
A. Smit & Zoon entered the animal feed sector with their cod liver oil and vitamine products. At the same time chemical evolutions provided better quality fish oils which created more and more useful products.
The successor of Albert Smit was Cornelis Smit. During his time he founded a purchasing office in Norway (Bergen), had two large warehouses built in Amsterdam and expanded the old stockfish factory to a production of 30 machines. Even though he did not lead the company for long, as he came to his untimely death in 1907, he was able to pass the company along to his son Herman who had built up to 15 years of international experience at the time.
During the 1914-1918 world war Herman Smit made an everlasting impression when he, together with his brother Nick who was working in Norway, loaded up ships with stockfish and clipfish and had the courage to bring these to Amsterdam.
After the war the growth of the company stagnated for a few years but this stabilized itself again, partly thanks to the import of other products and the increased publicity around vitamin A.
Cod liver oil not only contains vitamin A but vitamin D3 as well and as the chemical industry was not yet able to produce vitamin D3 (they were stuck at D2) the sales in cod liver oil for animal feed skyrocketed.
In 1932 a small laboratory was set up within the company which has been growing with the company, guaranteeing quality of products and production, ever since.
After the death of Herman Smit in 1942, the stockfish trade market plummeted downwards and the focus shifted to the trade in fish oils and its chemicals.
Eventually the stockfish line was closed down and the fish oil business became more and more important. After increasing tank storage facilities in house, the use of tank trucks was implemented and before long it became increasingly more challenging to load and unload on the canals in Amsterdam.
In the 150th year of A. Smit & Zoon’s business, the Amsterdam factory was bursting at the seams and the company decided to relocate to Weesp. At this new location offices, laboratory and production of both fish oil and fish oil based fat liquors for the leather tanning industry had the room to further grow and expand.
Now, with its 7th generation at the wheel, Smit & zoon is an international company with three business units: Finishing, Functional Oils, Wet End, emphasizing more and more on technology, research & development and sustainability.