Oriel Sea Salt
Some food businesses are started for little more than the price of the ingredients, but to get his sea salt company up and running, Brian Fitzpatrick and business partner John Delaney had to raise €1 million and build a desalination plant. Thankfully, and with the help of angel investors, they did just that, and Oriel Sea Salt was established in 2010.
Based at Clogherhead in Co Louth, the company extracts salts and minerals from the sea to sell into a variety of sectors, from food service to health supplements and cosmetics.
Securing funding was a massive achievement. “At first it seemed like nobody wanted to touch us because such a big capital expenditure was required up front,” says Fitzpatrick.
These days people are queuing up to use the company’s full flavour, fine grain sea salt.
“Our sea salt is of such purity and intensity that it elevates recipes and food products, yet allows you use up to 40 per cent less,” says Fitzpatrick, who attributes this quality to the company’s patented harvesting process.
Oriel is used by a number of leading chefs, including the legendary Albert Roux and Ross Lewis of Michelin-starred restaurant, Chapter One. Cookery schools such as Ballymaloe and the Dubai International Institute for Culinary Arts are also fans.
But progress hasn’t always flowed as well as the product, according to Fitzpatrick, who now employs four people. “The most recent challenge has been the Irish weather, and what all those storms did to the Irish Sea. We had to invest another €20,000 in extra sand filters to cope.”
It’s been a steep learning curve but now the company is focused on developing export markets, taking part on Bord Bia’s Food Works programme.
“It has been fantastic in giving us access to both mentoring and to a lot of really great information that we would otherwise have had to pay for.” It has, he might say, been worth its salt.