Packaging, as anyone working in the food supply-chain will tell you, is critical to the success of a launch and the enduring “shelf appeal” of a product. A convincing back-story is also a way to leap of the shelves into shoppers basket. Whether its the packaging of the iconic Maldon Sea Salt, the history of salt-making in the immediate vicinity or the excellent product itself, I suspect, the truth lies in a combination of the three.
Rumour has it that salt was first harvested in Maldon, (Essex, United Kingdom) on the Blackwater estuary – over a thousand years before it was actually called “Maldon” in the Doomsday Book – by accident nearly 2,000 years ago. Casius Petrox, a commander of the local Roman legion, had instructed his staff to warm his bathwater, as they were on the Essex coast sea water was in plentiful supply. His retinue warmed the water to such extent that some evaporated leaving a crusty residue. Allegedly, so pleased was Casius that he took up salt-making.
Why is this part of the Essex coast so perfect for salt production? It’s an area of flat tide-washed marshes and, even for the UK, has a comparatively low rainfall meaning increased salinity – or a high last content.
Fast forward to 1882 when The Maldon Salt Company was incorporated – although salt was produced at an original site well before this date. By the turn of the 20th century orders started to arrive from the top grocers including Harrods and Fortnum & Mason. An early critique from Harrods suggested “the salt much better than ordinary salt for pickling beef”.
So how is Maldon Sea Salt harvested? Essex coastal seawater is first filtered and then boiled to remove impurities. It is then reheated in large pans until the salt crystallises. The skilled saltmaker then ‘draws’ the salt by hand from the pans. The resulting residue being those pure-white crisp clean pyramid crystals of Maldon Sea Salt.
In April 1922, the Osborne family acquired the company and it has now passed through four generations of their family.
Maldon, I suspect by coincidence, was the location of the first self-service Tesco supermarket in the UK, established in 1956.
A great boost to business occurred in 2000 when well-known TV Chef, Delia Smith, sprinkled her magic and recommended Maldon Sea Salt in her cookery book. The shelves emptied as a result. Delia was the first of many TV chefs to name-check this wonderfully pure and simple product.
When you first use Maldon Sea Salt it helps to crush the crystals a little in your palm to ensure the salt is sprinkled evening over your meat or fish prior to cooking.
In 2012 a proud moment for the team at Maldon Sea Salt was when they were awarded a Royal Warrant to coincide with their 130th anniversary.
Naturally, in addition to the obvious kitchen uses much of Maldon’s annual salt crop is exported all over the World for use in a myriad of production processes but also to keep the roads ice-free.
Images courtesy Maldon Sea Salt