Founder Ben Jacobsen on his company, his salt and why chefs love it so much.

By Max Bonem
Updated June 28, 2017
Jacobsen Salt Co.
Credit: Courtesy of Jacobsen Salt Co.

When Ben Jacobsen was living abroad in Scandinavia during the late 2000s, he fell in love with high quality sea salt. However, once he returned to his native Oregon in 2011, he realized that no one was producing salt of the same quality in the United States. As a result, he gathered some seawater, started experimenting and Jacobsen Salt Co. was born.

Six years later, Jacobsen’s salt is available in high-end nation-wide chains likes Williams Sonoma and the company has partnered with brands like Blue Apron, Le Creuset and Stumptown Coffee Roasters just to name a few. However, it’s really chefs from across the U.S. who have been Jacobsen’s biggest champions.

Ben Jacobsen of Jacobsen Salt Co.
Credit: Nolan Calisch

“A few years ago, when chefs first encountered the salt, there was a little bit of disbelief because they were so puzzled that we were making salt, especially out of fresh sea water,” says Jacobsen. “When they tasted it, though, everyone really, really liked it. I’ve never cooked professionally and I don’t come from a food background, so to have chefs that I admire love a product that we make feels really good.”

Jacobsen Salt Co.'s devout fan base continues to grow and now includes some of the most prominent chefs in the country, including April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin), Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean-Georges, abcV), Michael Symon (Lola, Lolita), Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) and Chris Cosentino (Cockscomb, Jackrabbit) amongst many of the country's top chefs. “Their reaction and support has been really positive and super important to our success,” says Jacobsen. “We’ve got a long way to go, but every single chef that we work with is incredibly important.”

But, what is it about Jacobsen Salt Co.’s product specifically that attracts so many prominent chefs? It could be that the salt is distilled from the waters of Oregon's Netarts Bay, which is home to some of the purest sea water in country. Or it could be that Jacobsen's production process goes to great lengths to filter out the calcium and magnesium that give most sea salts a bitter aftertaste. According to Jacobsen, though, their secret sauce can be broken down into three different parts: the flavor, the texture and the color, along with extreme attention to quality control.

“When you taste our salt, it’s a very deliberate flavor that you get,” he says. “The texture is very light and flaky, but at the same time, you can easily break up it up with your finger tips if you want smaller pieces. Also, the color is always brilliant white and is really striking on plated food.”

Six years in, Jacobsen Salt Co. now produces nine different types of salt, along with two varieties of honey, a number of salted candies and a growing number of seasonings. However, it’s still the classic flake sea salt that the company started with with that continues to pave the way. With a product so simple, how is it that Jacobsen and his team have been able to set themselves apart? Jacobsen's answer may not be the most exciting, but it certainly is the most pure, just like the sea salt itself. “Anyone can make salt, it isn’t hard, but not everyone can make great salt, consistently, every single time.”