Peru company sells salt from Maras as luxury good

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How is it produced?
The Maras salt mines were born from a tributary whose source is in the middle of a mountain. This stream joined the Urubamba River and the salt was lost. When the Incas realised that the water was salty, they began digging wells and once each one was filled, they closed it. Once there, the sun evaporated the water and the salt was left behind. There are currently 4,500 wells and the river is still going.

Was it difficult to begin selling it?
I remember that it was during the third month that we exported our first pink salt order. It was a couple of 20-kilogram boxes for a culinary school in Colorado. At that time, we didn’t know it was one of the biggest salt traders in the country. After that, we began having more confidence in the project.

Now you sell it in the community itself.
We set up a store there in November. Between 500 and 1,000 tourists arrive there everyday and we offer them our products. Before, visitors used to buy a couple of kilos to take home. Now, those same visitors buy what we produce: from pink salt grinders, to exfoliating oils for the skin.

Residents of Maras harvest the salt from the terraced mines. (Photo: Courtesy Tierra del Monte)

Is that the only store you have?
We are also in some five stars hotels, like the Inkaterra chain, Sol y Luna and Libertador hotels. We are trying to get some restaurants in Cusco to include some dishes in the menu prepared with our salt. We also want to be in the Velasco Astete airport in that city. 

How did your products evolve?
That was actually a bit crazy. We began in gastronomy because we know salt is used basically for cooking, but we later discovered that it had many other uses. Now, for example, we are producing chocolate with salt. In November we will also launch potato chips. This product will be made in an artisanal way and our salt will give it a special flavour.

Is there a market for that?

Yes, actually, our first chips production is going to England and the next one, we will sell in Peru.

What about cosmetics?
Once we had already developed various gourmet products, we realized that there was also a lot of potential in the beauty industry. We took advantage of the anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties of salt, and added aroma such as lavender, which is soothing; mint orange, which is energetic; passion fruit, which is an aphrodisiac; and sacha inchi, which is exotic.

Do you plan on launching any other products?
There is still a lot to do. We read somewhere that salt has 400 different uses; we have only worked on about 20.

What strategy will you use to keep selling?
We do not sell salt. We offer the whole mystical story behind it, which is very much appreciated by foreign tourists. Also, everything we produce is high quality,  sanitary and has attractive and sophisticated packaging. We have created products that did not already exist in the market.

How do you do it?
We import the packaging from the United States and some African countries. All of this has contributed to the product acquiring a gourmet standard. That is also true for our cosmetic products. For example, our products have just received certification in Milan, Italy, that indicates that they do not generate any sort of allergy or damage to the skin.

Do all your products go abroad?
Between 80 and 90 percent goes abroad and the rest remains here. What we sell in the domestic market can be found in our store at the Maras salt mines, and in some gourmet stores too. Maybe we could open a store in Lima soon.

Have you identified a where the orders are coming from?
Germany, Finland and the United States buy salt for gourmet use mostly. We have not yet managed to identify each country’s demands, but I think that within two years or more, we will achieve that. 

What channels do you use to close your business deals?
All of our deals are done via the Internet. Two things that help us gain a clients trust are emails and the delivery of samples. We also participate in fairs such as Mistura, el Rastrillo and other international ones.

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