A LOVE FOR THE ISLAND
After graduating from Bangor University, where we had fallen in love with each other and the island of Anglesey, we started looking for ways that would allow us to continue to live and work in this area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Having supplemented our meagre student grants by growing oysters, our small oyster enterprise evolved into a wholesale fish and game business which we then ran for 12 years. We realised people were as fascinated by the fish in the sea as the fish on their plate, so in 1983, we set up The Sea Zoo which ended up becoming Wales’ largest aquarium.
When the seasonality of both these businesses became a serious problem, we sat down to brainstorm ideas of what we could do to make money in the winter months. After coming up with (and discarding) brilliant ideas such as selling solid sandcastles and bottles of coloured sand, we hit upon the idea of making sea salt.
THE QUEEN’S COASTLINE
We were already paying the Queen for the seawater as she owns the coastline and charges rent for our pipeline to it.
We also knew the sea around the island was exceptionally clean as the notoriously fussy seahorses at The Sea Zoo bred happily in it. Seahorses are very picky about the water in which they live and breed so we had a feeling that these briny waters had the potential to produce the world’s finest sea salt.
In 1997, we left a saucepan of seawater to boil on the Aga in our family kitchen and as the salt crystals started to form, we knew we’d struck culinary gold. We started supplying Halen Môn Sea Salt to Swains, our local butchers in Menai Bridge on the Isle of Anglesey.
Today, our sea salt is enjoyed around the world by chefs, food lovers and even Barack Obama. It has been served at the London 2012 Olympics, political summits and royal weddings and is a vital ingredient in Green & Blacks chocolate and Piper’s Crisps.
Along with over 100 of the nation’s best delicatessens in the UK, we also supply Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Harvey Nichols. Our sea salt can be found in more than 22 countries across the globe as well as on the tables of some of the world’s top restaurants like The Fat Duck.
Importantly, it’s still for sale at Swains in Menai Bridge.
- Our co-founders, Alison and David meet
Menai Seafoods Ltd
- They start an oyster enterprise, selling fish in Bangor University student union (oysters to the students, mackerel to the lecturers)
Anglesey Sea Zoo
- They buy an oyster hatchery and start what would become Sw Môr Môn / Anglesey Sea Zoo
A new company
- As tourism numbers start to fall, they start researching new ideas, from sandcastles to sea salt – Anglesey Sea Salt Ltd is registered as a company
- Alison and David make the first batch of Halen Môn sea salt on their family Aga
- They travel to London to a trade show, and meet Swain’s, our local butcher’s in Anglesey, who then become our very first customers
- Two Fat Ladies come and film at Halen Môn
Sell Anglesey Sea Zoo
- Alison and David sell Anglesey Sea Zoo, to focus on the sea salt company. Halen Môn moves into portacabins next door. Start supplying Pipers Crisps and Green & Black’s chocolate
Beginning to export
- Halen Môn now sold in over 15 countries
- Barrack Obama gifts chocolates made with Halen Môn to visitors to the White House
- Halen Môn is served in the athlete’s village at the London 2012 Olympics. Start trialling our Oak Smoked Water in our smokery. The business becomes BRC accredited
Protected by law
- Anglesey Sea Salt is awarded Protected Designation of Origin status
- Our, now twenty something strong, team moves from the portacabins (via wheelbarrows) to a new million pound purpose-built building next door. Our new ‘Saltcote’ opens up to the public for Behind The Scenes tours
- Awarded the Queen’s Award for Sustainability
Guild of Fine Food
- We receive our first Three Star Great Taste Award , and are listed among the Top 50 foods in UK
- We welcome the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for a visit. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall comes to open our cafe Tide/ Llanw
- We establish a family board to govern the company, made up of Alison and David and their three children, Hamish, Jake and Jess
- We undergo verification for B CORP STATUS