Conventional wisdom says people want the lowest price for commodity items in a down economy, but convention is wrong: Sales of gourmet salts are booming at Woodinville, WA’s SaltWorks Inc, so much so that the firm marked its tenth anniversary by relocating to a 100,000-sq.-ft. processing and packaging facility where it smokes, flavors and otherwise adds value to sea salts harvested worldwide.
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New flavor sensations are all the rage, and SaltWorks caters tothe demand with flavor-infused and smoked sea salt in a variety ofcontainers. Source: SaltWorks Inc.

Founders Naomi Novotny and Mark Zoske envisioned some extra cash from a home-based business when they began operations, recalls Novotny, president of the Seattle area company. Instead, SaltWorks tapped into the mainstreaming of refined dining and cable television’s insatiable appetite for cooking programs that have educated people about options to refined salt. The company offers more than 110 varieties of salt for retail and bulk shipments to other food companies, as well as bathing salts.

“The gourmet market has grown incredibly,” says Novotny. “Now people are looking for six or eight varieties when they go to the grocery store. It’s not just a white powder anymore.”
The company caters to demand with its own brands (Le Tresor, Fusion, Artisan Sale Co. and Pure Ocean) and as a copacker. Product diversity is matched by package diversity, with glass and plastic jars, canisters and pouches being filled. “We fill everything from tiny shakers to 2,200-lb. superbags,” she says. Up to 3 million lbs. of salt are inventoried to satisfy orders.

The new facility was outfitted with more than $3 million in new equipment, including a smokehouse that can process batches of one metric ton. The company also infuses sea salts with lemon, lime, habañera and other flavors. A vision system was deployed to inspect and reject crystals that do not meet color specs, and other equipment has been incorporated to meet commercial clients’ size and requirements for free-flowing materials. “Industrial sales open a whole new world of specifications,” Novotny reflects.