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Worth its salt: Olsson's provide for the gourmet market

Manufacturing

OLSSON's Salt, a family owned company better known for making nutritional licks for cattle and sheep, is breaking new ground with a range of gourmet salts, including its best selling truffle salt.

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These pure sea salt crystals, harvested from giant saltpans at Whyalla on the Spencer Gulf in South Australia, are now being used in some of Australia’s leading restaurants, including Icebergs, The Bridge Room and Aria; Olsson’s gourmet salts are also served to Qantas first class passengers.

Company director Alexandra Olsson, 48, says that the decision to create a new range of specialist salts, such as macrobiotic and sea salt flakes, is already paying dividends, with its current production unable to keep up with demand.

“We’re travelling really well with our specialist salts,” she says. “For every kilo we make we could sell another 10 kilos. It’s just a matter of increasing production at some time in the future.”

Apart from supporting a sustainable, pure and locally harvested product, chefs praise the texture, taste and flexibility of Olsson’s gourmet salts.

“Most people don’t spend much time thinking about salt,” says Monty Koludrovic, head chef at Icebergs Dining Room & Bar in Bondi Beach, New South Wales. “But there’s something quite distinctive about Olsson’s salt flakes which are fluffy and soft.”

Icebergs now flavours all of its fish and meat dishes with South Australian sea salt. Its signature meat dish, Bistecca con Limone, features aged grain fed Black Angus prepared in an Olsson’s sea salt crust – a blend of macrobiotic and salt flakes.

While sales of nutritional supplements, often known as salt licks, for sheep, cattle and other animals remains the backbone of the company, Olsson Industries is selling increasing quantities of its sea salt to the food manufacturing industry – or directly to home cooks and professional chefs.

The company, which employs around 90 people at its Whyalla salt works in South Australia and another 60 in Queensland and New South Wales, currently produces 60,000 tonnes of crystal salt and 60 tonnes of flaked salt each year, but expects to ramp up gourmet salt production in 2015.

“At the moment most of our salt is sold within Australia,” says Alexandra Olsson. “But we have a small but expanding export market in Korea, Japan, China and the [Pacific] Islands.”

When Alexandra Olsson’s grandfather took over some unwanted salt pans at the old BHP steel works in Whyalla he had no idea that the combination of high wind, abundant sunshine and pure sea water would yield such high-quality salt flakes – a product often compared to French Fleur de Sel or England’s famous Maldon salt flakes.

“The original family business was in ice production, but we moved into salt in the 1940s,” she says. “Australia was in the grip of a severe drought and farmers need to keep their animals alive – that’s why my grandfather started making salt blocks.”

Following the success of its truffle and macrobiotic salts, the company is now experimenting with smoked, vanilla and caviar-flavoured salts. With increased capacity Alexandra Olsson believes pure South Australian sea salt could soon challenge some of the dominant international brands.

“In the years to come I’d like to take on Maldon and give the Brits some of our salt,” she says. “I’d also like to go to France and show them what we’re doing here. I see no reason why Australia shouldn’t be a major exporter of natural sea salt.”

Olsson’s sea salt flakes, salt rubs and specialist products are available at gourmet food stores and providores or direct from www.olssons.com.au

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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