Mover and (salt) shaker: How one woman harvests big flavor from the sea
In the world of business, location (as they say) is everything. That theory isn’t lost on Lily Leedom, who spent 15 years in corporate real estate investment and development. In her current career, however, that concept has struck closer to home, both figuratively and literally. In 2018, Leedom founded SalterieOne, an artisan salt company inspired by and sourced with the pristine sea water from Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts, a coastal bay near her family’s home.
The path to creating a thriving salt company — which, in just a few years, has built sales channels that include supermarkets and specialty stores as well as direct-to-customer retail sales with a long list of loyal subscribers — wasn’t a direct one. As part of a personal journey to healthier eating, Leedom began searching for a high-quality, domestically made, handcrafted sea salt. What she found instead was salt that was typically imported and, more often than not, highly processed (stripping it of its natural essential nutrients and minerals) and made with chemicals and additives.
That’s when Leedom began taking a closer look at what was around her. “I live by a beautiful bay, which has a really high tide turnover and is full of millions of oysters that naturally filter the water,” she shares. “When I couldn’t find the salt I wanted — and made that connection that I lived in an area with this incredible natural resource — I decided to try making it myself.”
Armed with 5-gallon buckets, Leedom would haul water from Duxbury Bay back to the kitchen of her nearby 10-acre farm. “I knew nothing about salt, other than it made my food taste better,” she says of the early days of experimenting with making salt, which included the help of friends and Google as well as her entrepreneurial spirit.
Taking the plunge
After some trial and error, Leedom created an all-natural, flaky sea salt that she felt was good enough to give to friends and family. The journey to that milestone, however, wasn’t without its challenges, including the time Leedom almost lost her Volvo station wagon to the ocean. Harvesting alone one winter, Leedom reversed her car, as usual, down a ramp, parked and then got to work. “I was sloshing around in the freezing cold water with a bucket, and I started to see my car sliding backwards,” she recalls. “Have you seen those situations where someone is able to lift a car? It felt like that. I ran and pushed the car up the icy hill.”
With both car and determination intact and armed with positive feedback from her salt recipients, Leedom was ready to take her project further. While researching next steps, she came across some local historical documentation that reinforced she was on the right path. “Once I discovered that Duxbury Beach used to be called Salters Beach, and that salt harvesting was once prolific in our area, I was immediately excited to revitalize a centuries-old industry,” she says.
In August 2019, production at SalterieOne, formerly Duxbury Saltworks, took off when the company moved to a waterfront manufacturing facility, where water can be pumped directly into the building, eliminating the time-consuming bucket-hauling. Having Island Creek Oysters, another company that takes from the sea to create a quality product, as a neighbor was another plus for Leedom, who values connecting with her local community.
From the earth
Equally as important among the company’s values is sustainability. That was one of reasons I loved the business idea at the start,” says Leedom. “We are only using a natural resource that exists in abundance and seek to be as efficient as possible.” To that end, Leedom is in the process of researching solar panels for the manufacturing facility.
While most salt is mined from old salt mines and then processed and packaged, it’s a different story at SalterieOne. The first step in creating their sea salt involves collecting and filtering water from Duxbury Bay. To further refine the main ingredient of their flavorful sea salt, SalterieOne triple-filters the water. From there, the water is slowly heated to form a rich, condensed brine in which sea salt flakes form naturally.
At this point, SalterieOne’s harvesters know exactly when the salt is ready to be removed from the brine and dried at a very low temperature to maintain the integrity of the flakes. “Our salt is fluffy and breaks apart in your fingertips when you pinch it,” explains Leedom. “It is designed to melt on food and really elevate the profile of whatever you’re putting it on.” The careful and deliberate process helps ensure that each flake is perfectly textured and retains key minerals — such as magnesium, potassium, calcium — and other nutrients that are important to the body’s natural day-to-day functions.
Over time, SalterieOne has honed its manufacturing process with the goal of making the most beautiful flakes possible. “It’s a lot of experimentation with time and humidity and the way those things interact in our lab during different times of the year,” says Director of Sales and Partnerships, Emily Goodman-Simeone, of the exponential number of variables that go into the work they do at SalterieOne.
“When we say ‘hand-harvested’ it means that somebody is watching the flakes all the time and making sure it’s exactly what we want the end result to be.”
In addition to its popular Classic Sea Salt, which is designed to be used at any point in cooking process, SalterieOne also offers special salt blends, all of which use the Classic Sea Salt as a foundation. Goodman-Simeone says that conversations with the company’s loyal customers have sparked ideas for some of the blends. The close relationship that SalterieOne has with their customers and the local community is due, in part, to a direct line of communication. “They call us, and I call them back,” she says, matter-of-factly.
One customer shared with Goodman-Simeone that she regularly uses SalterieOne’s North Blend, which includes organic maple sugar, cinnamon and orange peel, in her coffee to cut bitterness. Another customer swore that having a variety of SalterieOne’s salt blends at the dinner table helped turn her daughter into a vegetable-lover.
“I think a lot of us now understand that there’s a huge quality difference between craft and noncraft products, such as with chocolate, beer and wine,” says Leedom, who recognized salt was a category that had yet to be transformed. “People really didn’t know that you could use a salt that is as pure, flavorful and flaky as ours. We saw that market opportunity and went for it.”
Browse SalterieOne products available in the Feast and Field Shop: