Can you tell us a bit about your business?

We are a really small team dedicated to making the very best salt possible. We use an entirely unique and sustainable tower of thorns to help us evaporate seawater in order to produce crystals with less energy and more flavour than other methods. Thorn towers were used to produce rock salt in Poland and Germany, but are now only tourist and spa resorts. The Salt crystals that we draw off are ideal – they give a confident blast of oceanic flavour which then mellows with the blackthorn bark tannins into rolling sweetness that really refracts the flavours. Chefs have been trying it out with chocolates, cakes, fruits, sourdough, curing meats, salamis and as a finishing salt and, as far as we know, all agree, it is a super special salt.

How has the Coronavirus crisis impacted your business so far?

Immeasurably – we were set to host a pre-launch evening, tasting and touring day on the 24th of March for 7 national chefs, clearly this has been postponed indefinitely; we then had plans for various press releases and launch events – all likewise are postponed. So we didn’t launch for a few months, inevitably this has affected our figures. The entire first batch was donated or used to raise money to help contribute to the UK’s Coronavirus efforts, which has also affected our targets. Sales only started, very gently, in June/July and we have not been going to visit people or showing them what we have been up to in person at all.

How has your business needed to evolve and change to operate in this environment?

We needed to postpone our launch; rethink and then do a co-vid 19 rejig launch which involved the 3 initiatives:

  • Pass the Salt – where we gave a box of Blackthorn to 19 people with 3 free tickets to pass on to friends and family for a box each; each recipient would then be able to pass on 2 boxes
  • Support Salt – where we gave tubs of Blackthorn free to restaurants /kitchens who were providing meals for key workers or their children
  • Charity/Community Salt – we released the rest of our entire 1st batch for free online other than P&P costs and then donated the actual cost of the salt to 3 co-vid and food related charities, the South Ayrshire Food Bank, Hospitality Health and the National Emergencies Trust.

Having launched we have had to curtail our original plans a lot, obviously our team works remotely where possible. Hayley holds meetings with interested people virtually rather than in person and she hasn’t yet been able to go on customer visits. At Blackthorn HQ, we have held some ‘tower tours’, but these have all been trade related and we have been unable to allow the public to come and have a look. These tours are also conducted with restrictions.

Going forward we are aware that we need to be reactive, flexible and inventive with our plans and business methods.

Has it presented opportunities which you would not otherwise have considered?

Possibly, but this would be hard to put a finger on; similarly to all those reports of people who used the drama of lockdown to reassess and reflect on what matters, we did likewise. Hopefully the ethos at Blackthorn has always been in the right place; it is how we achieve it in the brave new world that we find ourselves in that will be the test.

Finally, how are you celebrating this Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight?

To celebrate this Fortnight, we will be holding a few salty competitions, and hosting some Salt Sessions as well as some Tower Tours (by appointment only).