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The Secret Ingredient for America’s Most Loved Sea Salt? A Failed Tech Startup |

The Secret Ingredient for America’s Most Loved Sea Salt? A Failed Tech Startup

While attending business school in Copenhagen in 2004, Ben Jacobsen fell in love with Maldon sea salt, the flaky finishing salt prized by chefs. Returning to the United States–landing in Portland, Oregon–he was shocked to find that no one here was harvesting anything like that high-end sea salt.

After his mobile-app-discovery startup went belly-up, Jacobsen began lugging 275-gallon wine totes of seawater from Netarts Bay back to his home in Portland, where he re-created the laborious (and messy) process of evaporating the water to make salt. “I destroyed cookware and pots and pans and made a mess in the oven and everything else,” Jacobsen says. “It was definitely a learning experience.” Today, his category-defining American flaky sea salt is the favored salt of celebrity chefs.


The process of salt-making is now much more efficient at Jacobsen’s 6,000-square-foot production facility on the Oregon coast, where the company has built custom equipment. Jacobsen’s 42-person crew harvests 18,000 pounds of salt per month, which is then sent to the warehouse in Portland’s Central Eastside to be packaged and shipped out to Williams Sonoma, Whole Foods, and thousands of other retailers across the country. “Like the people who went to California 240 years ago and wondered if it was possible to grow grapes and make wine there,” says Jacobsen, “we’re the first in our category to make great salt in the U.S. mainstream.”

Isle of Salt

Category: Cookware Pots  Tags: ,  Comments off
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