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Meet the Founders

Meet the Founder: Björn Steinar Jónsson of Saltverk

Björn Steinar Jónsson of Saltverk

Björn Steinar Jónsson revived an 18th century tradition to create sustainable and exceptional flaky salts. With a simple blend of pristine Icelandic seawater and pure, natural energy, Björn is on a mission to both elevate food and protect the environment.     

Saltverk is made with nothing but hot spring water and 100% geothermal heat, leaving zero carbon footprint in the process. The end result is a mineral-rich sea salt that’s uniquely bold, crunchy, and full of umami flavor.

Recently, we caught up with Björn to learn more about his journey and hear his advice for fellow entrepreneurs. 

Lava Salt

1. Why did you start Saltverk?

Saltverk was founded on the belief that clean and sustainable products should be available to all. Since the beginning of my journey in 2012, I’ve been obsessed with salt and salt making. Now there is no turning back.

I studied engineering in Copenhagen but I was always fascinated by food and the restaurant industry. After graduating, I worked for a technology company in Copenhagen but I quickly realized that the work I was doing didn’t spark my passion. I wasn’t content with creating Excel spreadsheets. 

Iceland is surrounded by cold and pristine seawater which is abundant in geothermal energy. That gave me the idea to produce sea salt using a sustainable energy source. 

Our facility is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, which is between two fjords and surrounded by high mountains. Reykjanes, where the Arctic Ocean stream runs to the Bay of Ísafjarðardjúp, has some of the purest and most mineral-rich seawater in the world. That’s what gives Saltverk salt its distinct, deep flavor profile. It is also one of the few locations in Iceland where abundant, ample geothermal energy is so close to the seashore. For instance, our facility has access to 98 °C (206 °F) geyser water direct from Reykjanes’ springs, just meters from shore.

2. What obstacles did you face along the way?

Before Saltverk, no one had harvested sea salt using 100% geothermal energy. There was no manual to reference, so we had to create and finetune our own process. It took lots of trial and error. Out of ten ideas, only one idea might work. So, for every success, we’ve had nine failures. 

Our resilient team’s dedication and investment in hard work has produced a truly unique product. No other brand on the planet can tell our story.

At work making salt

3. What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Over the years, I’ve learned the value of a diversified sales strategy. At Saltverk, we work with grocery stores, but we also sell directly to consumers, restaurants, and tourist gift shops in Iceland. 

When the pandemic hit, the restaurant business and tourist business disappeared overnight. Had we not also been selling to grocery stores and directly to consumers, we could have lost the business. But, by being diversified, we were able to transition and lean into the other parts of our business that were still able to make money.

4. What’s on the horizon for Saltverk?

We will continue to expand our presence in the U.S market. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a rising interest in our sustainable sea salt in the U.S. and we’re excited to meet the demand. Bristol Farms is the first retail store to carry Saltverk and it’s the perfect place for us to launch our next chapter.

where salt is produced

5. How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?

We’re pretty much a family here at Saltverk, so work/life balance is built into our daily routine. Our team has a tradition of cooking lunch and dinner together. It’s a big part of our day when we sit down, share our thoughts and values, and assess how we can do even better as a group. 

We get to produce a quality product that is adored by home chefs and the world’s best restaurant chefs. That’s all the motivation we need to press on and share Saltverk with as many people as possible.

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Meet the Founder