Saltverk, a line of hand-harvested, sustainable sea salts from Iceland, is now available in the U.S. market.
Björn Steinar Jónsson founded Saltverk in 2011, during the early years of the New Nordic cuisine movement, while finishing an engineering degree in Copenhagen, Denmark. The project was born out of a passion for food, sustainability and Icelandic pride. The crunchy, mineral-rich, high-quality salt is produced using only energy from geothermal hot springs in the northwest of Iceland from seawater of Iceland’s remote Westfjords.
Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, which separates two fjords and is surrounded by high mountains, the plant uses some of the purest and most mineral-rich seawater in the world, giving Saltverk salt a distinct, deep flavor profile.
The production method is based on the process established by the Danish king in the 18th century; salt was once a revered commodity used for the preservation of fish for trade. A few decades after its establishment, salt making in Iceland ceased. However, the art was not gone forever, and Saltverk marks the reestablishment of traditional salt production in Iceland.
The process uses 206 F geyser water from the springs of Reykjanes. The saltwater is pumped into open pans where it is preheated, becoming a concentrated brine with a salinity level of 17 to 20%. The brine is boiled until white crystals appear on the surface. These are harvested from the bottom of the salt pans; any remaining liquid is drained, and the salt dried and packaged.
The result of this process is a handmade, pyramid-like, crystal salt flake that contains the flavor and taste of the Nordic region from which it’s sourced. The finished product includes minerals necessary for human life, with zero chemicals or anti-caking agents.
The entire process is fueled by 100% geothermal energy from Iceland’s geysers, resulting in zero carbon footprint as well as no CH4 emissions, making Saltverk one of the few entirely sustainable flaky sea-salt producers in the world.
The company’s major byproduct is mineral salts, which are mostly composed of magnesium chloride. These leftover salts are recycled by Angan, a sustainable skincare company that embraces Salverk commitment to zero-waste production. It currently has two products that use Saltverk’s mineral salts – a salt scrub and bath salts.
Saltverk also saves spilled salt and salt discards for local farmers to supplement their livestock’s diet and for gardening purposes. Neighbors in the community support Saltverk and help it when needed, and in exchange, the company supports them by gifting spilled salt or helping with repairs. Saltverk also saves its freshwater byproduct for cleaning and washing its facilities and equipment, and for staff use.
Currently, the company is exploring opportunities for the comprehensive use of other small byproducts such as salt brine and calcium rocks. Saltverk has been providing farmers with its brine to use in place of nitrates or chemicals for treating meat, and the farmers have had good results so far.
Currently, Saltverk is producing six different variations of salt: Flaky Sea Salt, Licorice Salt, Arctic Thyme Salt, Birch Smoked Salt, Seaweed Salt and Lava Salt. The 3.17-ounce jars range from $10.99 to $12.99 each and are available on their website, Amazon.com and select retailers. The salts are sold both as single jars and as gift sets.