Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2020

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1220124

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Page 42 of 75

"Many consumers have become accustomed to specialty salts having a particular hue and might not be aware that some of the best, most interesting salts on the market are actually white." 40 SPECIALTY FOOD SPECIALTYFOOD.COM R etailers and suppliers of specialty and artisan salts are reaping the benefits of increasing consumer interest in the pedigree of the foods they eat. Many of these salts tout their minimal processing and discreet place of origin, appealing to consumers seeking more natural foods overall. As the category has grown and consumers have become more knowledgeable about the nuances that distinguish various types of salt on the market, suppliers have expanded their offerings to include more colors, textures, and flavors. "When we first started, it was a huge educational process for the customers," says John Tarallo, founder of Pittsburgh's Steel City Salt Co., a salt supplier that opened its first retail store about 18 months ago. "Not many people knew about salts, and the ones that did, didn't know much. Now they are interested in the origins of products, and they are much more educated about salts." Tarallo launched Steel City in 2014 by offering a handful of imported specialty salts to restaurants, but he soon found strong consumer demand via an outdoor stand in Pittsburgh's Strip District, a local food market. It led to the opening of the brick-and-mortar location. He is among the many suppliers and retailers in the industry that have seen consumer interest in gourmet and craft salts continue to expand. Adding Texture Salt either comes from the ocean or from the mining of former ocean beds and can be processed in several ways. Artisanal salts are generally those that are considered to be crafted by hand using traditional methods. Fleur de sel, for example, is made by skimming the delicate salt flakes that float at the top of shallow coastal pools. Although craft salts embody a range of subtle flavors and other qualities that affect how they interact with other foods, often the most sought- after attributes of many specialty salts are their color and texture. Colors can range from white to various shades of pink or red to black, depending on the trace minerals that are contained in the salt naturally, or how they are processed. Himalayan salt, for example, obtains its pink color naturally from its mineral content, while most black salts are mixed with activated charcoal. Texture—especially crunchiness—has also become a more important attribute for consumers. "The finishing salts, especially the flaky and the very coarse salts, are becoming popular," says Brett Cramer, co-founder of salt supplier The Spice Lab. "Texture is such a huge component in cooking, and a nice, crunchy salt takes it to the next level." Salts have slight taste differences that stem from the trace minerals in the water or the ground from which they are harvested and, as consumers learn about these variations, as well as how different salts affect the flavor of other foods, they are stepping up their demand for high-end, region-specific varieties. "We are selling more quality products into more and more stores," says Mark Bitterman, author of a comprehensive book about salt, and founder and CEO of The Meadow, which operates two specialty food stores in Portland, Ore., where it is based, and one each in New York and Tokyo. "I think the market has more ground to gain." Ben Jacobsen of Portland, Ore.-based Jacobsen Salt Co., says his company "continues to gain market share and traction." "The most significant trend we are seeing is people continuing to see the power and importance of using great salt in every meal," he says. "Craft salts were not always widely available in the U.S. The rest of the world uses good salt in everything. Why shouldn't we?" Interest in Blends Some salts that were once considered specialty have become much more mainstream, says Cramer of The Spice Lab. Pink Himalayan salt, for example, has become so ubiquitous that it is no longer the novelty it was just a few years ago, although it is still prized for its color and its delicate flavor. "The customer is still buying it, and we're selling more now than we did three years ago, but it's available in thousands of different places," he says. Instead, Cramer and other retailers and suppliers say they are seeing increasing interest in spice blends PHOTO: SALTWORKS

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