Most of us love summer but salt farmers James and Yasmin Moore say they're the season's biggest fans. The hotter the weather, the better their salt is.
“We don't like moisture and we don't like rain,” James Moore says.
Moore says he created the business after a personal crisis.
“I had a business in Hamilton that went belly-up in a big way and, of course, it throws your entire life into chaos.
“I became a postie, which I still think is one of the best jobs I've ever had.”
As he rode around on his bike, he would dream up new business ideas.
He was looking for a food product that was easy to make and was curious about producing salt.
One day, he drove from his house in Hamilton to Raglan beach and brought home a couple of litres of sea water so he could try extracting the salt from it in his backyard.
“The first few batches that we made, people absolutely loved it,” he says. “I told everyone I was going to become a salt farmer, and everyone told me I was an idiot.”
He proved them wrong.
The new business meant a big change in the couple's lifestyle.
When Yasmin got a new job in the Northland town of Taipa, James decided to make salt full-time, so they sold up and moved to the coastal settlement with their dog Jorgi.
They built their “dream home” and put a six-metre tunnel house on the land, installing a large evaporation tank.
“Lo and behold, we got a nice big load of salt out of it,” Moore says.
“From there, it was just a question of continuing to build, setting up more evaporators and innovating to the point where we could get enough salt to make a living out of it.”
For salt in The Taipa Salt Pig’s range, Moore uses seawater from Cable Bay. He goes down to the beach to collect the water in buckets by hand before distributing it among 20-litre tanks.
“I really like going to get the water at the beach,” he says.
“That's one of my favorite things and it's quite nice to walk up and down the beach looking around. People always come up and have a chat here about what you're doing.”
The water sits in the tanks for about a day, so any ocean residue sinks to the bottom. It also helps with the final filtration of the water before it goes into the main evaporation units.
The pair have now been selling their hand-crafted, sunshine-soaked salt for six years.
“We started from a very small base and a three-month trading period, and we've just continued to grow,” Moore says.
They never stop experimenting and innovating to create new salt flavours.
“There are some winners and losers, but we tend to stick with the ones that are tried and true,” he says.
“My original four flavours for our summer variety packs were citrus, squid ink, garlic and chili. And people still love all those flavours.”
His personal favourite is squid ink, but it's a flavour Moore describes as “polarising”.
“Some people just turn their nose up at it.”
One of the things he’s proudest of is that the product's main ingredients are just sunshine and seawater. Everything is run on solar power, and natural products like glass, paper and cardboard make up most of their packaging.
Online sales took off during the pandemic as New Zealanders rallied to support locally made products.
They fell this year, but Moore says market and restaurant customer sales have picked up.
The pair are now making around 700 kilos of salt a year, but Moore wants to increase that to a tonne.
However, he doesn’t have any interest in scaling up the business by building a salt factory.
“The lesson I've learnt is that I could build a massive facility and make 10 or 20 tonnes a year and ship it around New Zealand – but I don't want to do that.
"We want to take this technology and put it in regions all the way down the North Island so we can make salt for local communities.”
It’s a chance, he says, for other people interested in making salt to use seawater that’s come from their own region.