Ben Jacobsen was surprised to discover sea salt was not available in Portland as a locally sourced ingredient.
BY LINDA BAKER
Ben Jacobsen, CEO of Jacobsen Sea Salt
// Photo by Sierra Breshears
Ben Jacobsen learned to appreciate good salt while living in Scandinavia, first as an MBA student in Denmark and then as a marketing professional in Norway. So when he moved to Portland a few years ago, he was surprised to discover sea salt was not available as a locally sourced ingredient. “I thought something was missing,” Jacobsen says. To fill the gap, Jacobsen started harvesting the mineral from Netarts Bay, something that hadn’t been done since the days of Lewis and Clark. A 40-hour process from start to finish, Jacobsen’s salt-making technique involves boiling the sea water to reduce the volume and “pare back” calcium and magnesium, which can lead to a bitter aftertaste. “Clean and briny” is the goal, Jacobsen says. Then he lets the water evaporate slowly, followed by a “final drain and dry.” Jacobsen spent three years perfecting his technique, then made his first sale last September, when New Seasons ordered 12 cases, 3 pounds each, one for each store. A year later, Jacobsen and two employees make about 100 pounds of the finishing salt a week, and his product is available in 56 stores in the Northwest and 30 restaurants in Portland, including Ned Ludd and Lincoln. Dovetail, a restaurant in New York, is also a client. “Anybody can make really bad salt,” says Jacobsen. “But it’s really difficult to make great salt.”
COMPANY: Jacobsen Sea Salt
PRODUCT: Hand-harvested sea salt
CEO: Ben Jacobsen
AT A GLANCE: Financed through savings and “a large credit card.” Raised $30,000 through Kickstarter. Preparing first investment round — less than $1 million — to build a processing facility on the Oregon Coast. “We currently make the salt in Portland, which is a bit silly because we have to drive water over the pass.”
SALES PITCH: “We just want to make the best product possible and really let that speak for itself. Our chefs love it, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
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