SaltWorks’ custom-engineered new packaging, which took 24 months’ R&D to perfect, is stunning in looks and impressive in function.
SaltWorks’ CEO Mark Zoske set out to reinvent the Woodinville, WA, company’s product packaging for its retail packaged gourmet and specialty sea salt brand, Artisan Salt Company.
“We were complacent about our packaging until about three years ago,” admits Zoske, who then championed the effort to recreate the brand’s gourmet salt packaging aesthetically and functionally for both retailers and consumers:
- A polycarbonate (PC) salt shaker container that looks and feels like glass, but is durable for repeated everyday use, featuring a transluscent overcap designed and molded with precise tolerances to provide an air-tight seal;
- A boutique glass jar with sustainably harvested, solid American black walnut lid, features a custom-designed friction-fit silicone sleeve that fits over the undercuts in the bottom of the lid, creating an airtight, vapor-proof seal; and
- A revolutionary ceramic salt grinder that is infinitely adjustable and incredibly durable. Developed from scratch with a patent-pending design, this marvel of engineering features the same air-tight translucent overcap as the shaker, which is easily removed to refill the container with coarse salt or whole spices for repeated reuse.
Individually and collectively, the packaging is nothing short of gorgeous.
The products debuted at the Specialty Food Association Winter Fancy Food Show in January in San Francisco to high acclaim. "We were thrilled at the remarkable response we received from buyers [there]," says Zoske. "We greatly appreciate customers' enthusiasm for the new packaging.” The buzz from the show has since spread far and wide, he adds.
The introductions culminate several years’ investment of time, R&D, engineering and money.
“When we launched the company 15 years ago, no one knew what gourmet salt meant,” Zoske recalls. The company launched the Artisan Salt Company retail product line in 2005 using stock packaging. This time, however, every aspect was meticulously designed in-house by SaltWorks using custom components.
Perhaps most exemplary of the new-look packaging trio is the Artisan Grinder line. A brand-new offering from SaltWorks, the grinder had a launch directive to be “the best-ever built-in salt mill,” Zoske says.
That promise meant 18 months’ R&D, a large chunk of which was spent developing the grinder from scratch.
SaltWorks set out to develop from scratch the best salt mill ever, which turned into an 18-month process.
Grinding out the grinder
Zoske, who describes himself as a self-taught engineer, says the project unleashed his inner product designer. “This was super exciting and scary, frustrating and expensive,” he admits. “It was also the first time we developed anything that functioned mechanically, so it was also a giant risk.”
Zoske roped in SaltWorks' lead engineer and two associates to help.
“They typically build and customize salt-breaking and handling machinery,” he points out. “We spent hours and hours on drawings over a six-month period. Then it was time to make it.”
Next, Zoske solicited external help from Detekt Product Design, a global product design, engineering development and prototyping company. That portion took 8 months’ time, resulting in a patent-pending design and a remarkably complex part.
The grinder itself is not made of plastic or metal—plastic isn’t durable and metal doesn’t work with salt, as it can corrode over time, Zoske points out. Instead, he and his engineering team opted to create the grinding mechanism from ceramic.
“Ceramic is expensive, but it was the best material,” he explains. “Ceramic-on-ceramic is 'bulletproof' and will grind anything.”
A view at the breakout drawing of the parts makes the development seem more like rocket science than one would expect for a salt grinder. The assembly of the grinder parts is done by SaltWorks’ dedicated team.
“It’s a whole new way to grind salt,” says Zoske. “In your fingertips is the ability to precisely make any grain size of salt you want, coarse or fine, by simply adjusting the grinding mechanism, which is as easy as twisting to the left (more fine) or to the right (more coarse).”
To grind, the user inverts the container, adjusts the grinder setting and spins the container while holding the cap stationary; the cap also removes easily for refilling.
The overcap’s tight-tolerance seal along the edge of the grinder mechanism assembly that itself affixes tightly over the bottle flange is crucial: Salt and moisture are not friends, according to Zoske.
The previous packaging for the coarse salt was a generic PET bottle that also compelled users to supply their own grinder.
The bottle is now a custom, two-piece injection-molded, BPA-free PC bottle manufactured by an overseas partner. A special factory was set up specifically to produce the container. These arrangements were handled through SaltWorks' partnership with Detekt.
Next: Packaging to “cherish” and two more product lines
Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Expo Toronto assembles 5 events—Automation Technology Expo (ATX), PACKEX, PLAST-EX, Design & Manufacturing and Powder & Bulk Solids (PBS)—under one roof May 16-18 in Canada. For more, visit http://admtoronto.com/