A Day in the Life Of…

09 Dec 2013
2 min read
Björn Steinar Jónsson, salt maker extraordinaire, talks about making salt using geothermal processes in northwestern Iceland

When I am at the salt production site, my day starts at 7am with a good breakfast. The site is located in the northwestern part of Iceland on a small peninsula separating two fjords and surrounded by high mountains. It’s 300km and a 3-hour drive away from Reykjavik. So when I go there, I stay up there for several days, about every other week. In the morning I start inspecting the salt pans. We have a weekly cycle and harvest the salt about three or four times a week. I meet up with all the employees at the site where we harvest, dry and package the salt.

By noon I will have gone through all my emails to check the orders and see where deliveries have to go. We have a software that takes all the information and divides the jobs between the employees. It’s a difficult environment to work in. We are using geothermal energy and we work with nature, which means we have fluctuations in the natural production according to the different seasons. Now in winter it’s not only dark – we have sunlight for only about 4 hours – but also very cold. At the production site it’s minus 20 degrees on average during the winter. It slows down our production system but of course it doesn’t slow down the demand, especially in the holiday season. But we try our hardest.

The geothermal process is entirely sustainable, releasing zero carbon into the environment. We are evaporating sea water on salt pans, a method similar to that used for making flake salt in the northern hemisphere in England, Scandinavia and Alaska. But we use a historic method which was first used in the same location where our production site is now, 250 years ago. We use geothermal energy where we have boiling water underneath the salt pans to heat up the sea water, which then evaporates and leaves us with the salt. The site is very remote, about 120km away from the nearest municipality, so we have access to one of the purest sea waters in the world. There is no industrial contamination. It’s just dried sea water and thus a very natural product, containing high amounts of minerals.

I also spend a lot of time on the road. I am in Copenhagen very frequently, which is our biggest market. Copenhagen has a very vibrant restaurant scene with lots of Nordic restaurants and when I’m there I do some of the deliveries myself to build relationships with chefs. We have also been doing some product development in cooperation with the chefs. At the moment we have five varieties, flaky sea salt, lava salt, liquorice salt, arctic thyme salt and birch smoked salt. These have been developed in collaboration with the kitchens of the restaurants. And we are currently developing a new one for the holiday season, which is pine. We saw that a restaurant in Copenhagen in the Royal Danish Gardens made pine salt with our salt and we were all fascinated by the taste. We have now sourced pine from a place close to our production site and we’re sure it will be great.