A new business opened a packaging plant in Stoke recently, South Pacific Salt sources pure, natural sea salt from Marlborough, refines it and sorts it into different grades then packages it as a premium salt for both the domestic and international marketplaces.
South Pacific Salt is owned by a Hong Kong business that has salt distribution as a key part of its operation, but the wider family has had significant investments in the Nelson region for many years, meaning Nelson was an obvious option when choosing a location to set up the packaging plant.
I was invited to attend the opening of the new plant a few weeks ago and those in attendance were given a gift pack of this new salt product and it is what it says it is on the label, Marlborough Sea Salt.
At home we use salt to enhance the flavour of food when we cook all sorts of dishes. Accordingly, we have a number of different salts at our place, from fine iodine-treated salt to flaky sea salt, rock salt in a grinder, Pink Himalayan rock salt, truffle flavoured salt, saffron infused salt, chili infused salt, wild mushroom flavoured salt and even a finishing salt.
Every salt has its place in our cooking, however I’m not quite sure how the finishing salt is different to the flaky sea salt, but the marketing says we need it – so we have it!
The Executive Director of South Pacific Salt, Nina Lee, told me people underestimate the importance of salt in our diet and while too much isn’t a good thing everyone needs salt as part of their diet to ensure their bodies function properly.
Salt, or sodium to use its elemental name, is found in nearly everything we eat and drink and while it is recommended you don’t have too much salt in your daily diet it does occur naturally in many foods as well as being added to others during the manufacturing process. Salt is obviously used as a flavour-enhancer by home cooks and restaurant chefs around the world.
It didn’t take much to find out more about sodium in a quick online search and to confirm that salt is a necessary nutrient for good health, it’s one of your body’s electrolytes and most of your body’s sodium is in your blood as well as in the fluid surrounding your cells where it helps keep these fluids in balance. Salt also plays a key role in normal nerve and muscle function.
Something else I found interesting in my quick online search is that in both people with high and normal blood pressure, consuming too little sodium has been shown to worsen health more than consuming too much, so salt consumption is very much a balancing act.
It is widely recognised that salt in processed foods account for an estimated 75% of total sodium consumed, so I think it’s much better to eat fewer highly processed foods and use salt at home in your cooking.
By doing this you know exactly what you are putting into your body and, if you are like us, you can use different flavoured salts for different dishes, adding to the deliciousness of the food as well as controlling your sodium intake.
I had many questions about the South Pacific Salt business, the main one was why sea salt from Marlborough when the company already sources salt from other parts of the world.
The single most important consideration when selecting Marlborough Sea Salt to add to their business was the purity, Lee told me “most of the salt around the world is impacted by micro-plastics, plastics so small the human eye can’t detect them without a microscope.” These are used in many things, including makeup.
“We discovered Marlborough Sea Salt has no micro-plastics and it is the only place in the world we have found such pure salt and that is very important to our company.
“There is much evidence that micro-plastics are bad for our health and some research shows they have the potential to cause cancers so, for us as a company, having salt that has no micro-plastics is very important. Because Marlborough Sea Salt is already very pure it means we can help promote New Zealand as being a very good place to produce things.”
Other than already having links to Nelson I asked Lee why the company didn’t establish a packing plant closer to the source in Marlborough, “we enjoy coming to Nelson for many reasons, we love the outdoors and sunshine so spend time here anyway, then Nelson also has the port we can export from. If we were in Marlborough we would have to freight the finished product to the port and it is easier to transport it in bulk to Nelson and then export direct from here.
“We were able to find the right building to lease and staff to run our business, also our New Zealand consultant, Bill Findlater, lives in Nelson so it made sense to be based here.”
If you think about processing and packing salt it seems like a pretty straightforward process, but because it is a food product it needs to be handled correctly so the processing plant has some very experienced food industry staff, including the manager Vivienne who has worked for other food export businesses.
Speaking of processing, Lee told me they set up the plant in Nelson using machinery that has only stainless steel and glass, “there is no plastic in the plant to make sure no little pieces of micro-plastic rub off conveyors and contaminate the salt, it is so pure we want to make sure the processing doesn’t affect it. Even our packaging is glass with a screw top rather than plastic bags.”
They also don’t use anti-clumping components like you will find in very fine salts, South Pacific Marlborough Sea Salt is the purest sea salt this company could find on the planet and they want to keep it that way.
South Pacific Salt isn’t just exporting salt to international markets, at the moment you can find the distinctive little jars on the shelf at a Fresh Choice in Nelson with more stores to come over the next few weeks.