Saltwest Naturals, owned and operated by Jessica Abel, right, and Jeff Abel, is a business that harvests sea-salt from our our area’s waters. The sea-salt business is one of the largest in all of Canada, as their product is distributed to over 400 stores across the country. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke salt producer shaking up the market

Saltwest Naturals was launched in 2011 and is now one of the largest sea salt producers in Canada

Who could have guessed that Sooke would have one of the largest sea-salt production businesses in Canada?

Saltwest Naturals was launched in 2011 by Jessica and Jeff Abel, after the couple was chatting with friends and realized that there wasn’t anywhere around, that they could find, making sea salt.

They started out making small batches and selling them at markets in the area, and now, Saltwest Naturals is distributed to more than 400 stores across the country.

The process of making sea salt is hands on and labour intensive, but all of the manufacturing is done in Sooke.

The company’s salt is harvested from the ocean through evaporation, and Jeff said it’s about a four day process from collecting the water out of the sea, to getting it in the package and ready to sell.

First, the water is retrieved in a large tank and brought back to the manufacturing site, then the water goes through a reverse osmosis machine to make the water have a higher salt concentrate. All the resulting fresh water from this process is bottled and sold as well.

Next, the water is boiled for about 12 hours. From there, it’s boiled further in steam pots where the salt is infused with natural flavours.

From here, the salt, which will be in a paste-like form, is split up in to batches and roasted in the oven for six to eight hours until it’s dry enough to be sifted. Lastly, it is packaged and ready for distribution.

A small amount of the salt is evaporated using sunlight, which leaves no carbon footprint and is unique to the Saltwest company.

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The company now has 15 culinary salts, six bath soaks, and three different scented bars of soap. Some of Jeff’s culinary favourites are the roasted garlic and onion, and the smoked house peppercorn flavours, and one of Jessica’s favourites is the salted caramel chocolate.

Over the years, the company has grown substantially, and it recently won awards for its product, including the Ocean Products of the Year award at 2018 Vancouver Island Business Awards.

“It was totally unexpected, but it was really lovely to win,” said Jessica. “We’ve kind of just had our heads down focusing on what we do for the past seven years, so for us to get that recognition was really cool.”

Recently, Saltwest released a spicy ancho chili salt, and hopes to release a lemongrass infused bath salt later this year.

“We like to try and release two new products per year,” said Jeff. “We hope to keep growing our business and eventually we hope to expand into the U.S. market .”

To take a tour of Saltwest Naturals, contact Jessica and Jeff Abel at saltwest1@gmail.com.