P.E.I.'s Black Whale Sea Salt Company is expanding from small hand-crafted batches to commercial production with some help from a government grant.
The company makes all natural salt from P.E.I. north shore sea water. Black Whale was one of 10 businesses that received $25,000 grants from Innovation PEI's Ignition Fund last October.
'It's a very small market, but a lot of people are a lot more conscious about what they're putting in themselves these days.' — Darren Blanchard, Black Whale Sea Salt Co.
"We're going to be starting production on this Monday to produce our natural sea salt," said Darren Blanchard, CEO of Black Whale Sea Salt Co. from a kitchen at P.E.I.'s Bio Food Tech — previously known as the PEI Food Technology Centre. The centre helps companies develop new products from cottage industry to commercial-scale.
The company's salt production is simple: workers fill barrels with sea water then truck it to Charlottetown, where they boil off the water and dry the salt on racks, a process that takes about 18 hours.
"The goal is to get it to the point where we'll be using more sophisticated machinery," Blanchard said. "But right now it's a very hands-on operation." He credits company founder Sean Wall with being an artist who knows how to create a quality product.
The salt grains are larger than typical table salt — more of a "finishing salt" according to Blanchard.
"It's something that you would use in a grinder or in the actual cooking process of food."
For the past three years, the company has sold the salt in small local stores and some restaurants.
Now the company wants to take the next step — increasing production by 100 times, and hopes to eventually build its own facility .
The salt is appealing to the high-end culinary market, said Blanchard, and should be able to fetch a premium price.
"There's a market out there. It's a very small market, but a lot of people are a lot more conscious about what they're putting in themselves these days."
How does it taste?
"The lack of additives and anti-caking agents do give it an authentic taste so anybody who is a connoisseur or somebody who is a culinary will definitely taste the difference between our salt and say a regular table salt."
Sales are currently on hold while the company rebrands itself as The Prince Edward Island Sea Salt Company and stockpiles a supply.
The product should be available on P.E.I. in mid-spring and across Canada by the fall, Blanchard said.
"Once we build it, they will come," Blanchard said hopefully of future sales.