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From Sea to Table and Beyond: A Journey through the History of Salt Production

Salt is everywhere. You’ll find it in every kitchen cupboard and on every dining table. Its constant presence in our homes means that we take it for granted. Yet most of us don’t understand its rich history. At PureSalt, we explore the history of salt.

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Why We Should Follow The History of Salt

Salt has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Its production has influenced trade routes, economies, and civilisations. It has become essential in a variety of processes from preserving food and enhancing flavours to modern chemical manufacturing and water treatment.

The history of salt production is a remarkable journey that highlights the vital role salt has played in shaping human civilisation. From ancient trade routes to modern industrial processes, salt’s significance extends far beyond its culinary use. From ancient seawater salt pans to modern industrial processes, the story of salt production highlights human resourcefulness and ingenuity.

A Brief Timeline of Salt

Ancient Civilizations:

Salt production was discovered through the evaporation of seawater in small pottery vessels over a fire, creating sea salt.

6000 BCE: Salt was used by early civilisations in the Middle East and China.

3000 BCE: In Ancient Egypt, Egyptians use salt for mummification and food preservation.

9th century BCE: Salt pans developed in Carthage (modern-day Tunisia).

Classical Period:

4th century BCE: Roman soldiers receive salarium (salt allowance) as part of their pay.

1st century CE: Ancient Romans establish “Salt Roads” for trade and distribution.

Middle Ages:

6th-15th century: Salt trade becomes essential for economic prosperity and taxation.

Middle Ages: Salt was used for food preservation, especially during winter.

Age of Exploration:

15th-16th century: European explorers discover new sources of salt in salt lakes and mines.

17th century: Saltpetre (a salt compound) becomes crucial for gunpowder production.

Industrial Revolution:

18th-19th century: Efficient salt production techniques like the “pan process” and “grainer process” developed.

19th century: Salt plays a role in meatpacking and food preservation industries.

Modern Era:

20th century: Salt used in chemical manufacturing and water treatment in England and the rest of the world.

20th century: Iodized salt was introduced to combat iodine deficiency.


Salt remains an essential ingredient in various industries, from food to technology.

History Of Salt Production Infographic

The Power of the Sea: The Ancient Origins of Salt Production

Salt production can be traced back to prehistoric times. Around 6000 BC, people discovered that they could extract salt by evaporating seawater in small pottery vessels over the fire, in Europe near where present-day Romania is. Salt works in Ancient China have been dated back to roughly the same period, suggesting that this method was utilised by the Chinese during this time as well.

In 3000 BC, Egyptians used salt during the mummification process and to preserve food.

The mineral played a crucial role in the rise and fall of several ancient civilisations including the Egyptians, Greeks, and Ancient Romans. Salt was so highly prized in Ancient Rome, the salt trade created ancient trade routes known as the “Salt Roads” linking the city of ancient Rome to the salt pans on the Adriatic Sea. One key example of these salt routes is the Via Salaria, which ran across Italy from Rome to the Adriatic coast. Roman soldiers in the 4th Century BC received salarium (salt allowance) as part of their pay, showing how valuable a resource it was.

The trade of salt also played a significant role in ancient times by connecting distant regions and encouraging economic prosperity along these routes. With salt being much sought after, salt monopolies have even led to social unrest and uprisings.

During the Middle Ages, salt continued to be an essential commodity, with many regions in France imposing heavy salt taxes and strict regulations on its production and trade. The gabelle was an unpopular tax but proved just how valuable a resource salt had become. Salt was integral for the preservation of food before industrial refrigeration, making fresh meat, fish, and vegetables last longer for the elite who could afford its heavy price tag.

Improvements to Salt Production: Industrial Revolution and Technological Advancements

The Age of Exploration had a profound impact on salt making, production, and trade. As European explorers ventured to distant lands, the use of salt extended beyond preserving food on long journeys and enhancing the taste of food through the use of what we now know as table salt.

Explorers also discovered new sources of salt, such as salt lakes and salt mines. This allowed for increased production and distribution across the globe to meet the growing demand of expanding empires and their colonies.

The Industrial Revolution marked a significant turning point in salt production. Traditional salt extraction methods like solar evaporation were gradually replaced by more efficient techniques, such as the “pan process” and the “grainer process”. These innovations enabled large-scale salt production, making salt more affordable and accessible to the masses.

Another key finding in the 17th Century was saltpetre. This salt compound became a crucial part of gunpowder production. This was particularly relevant during the 18th Century French Revolution, as revolutionaries stormed the Bastille and used the gunpowder stores for their own weapons.

Modern Salt Production

In modern times, salt is produced through a variety of methods. From mining rock salt deposits, evaporating seawater to commercial scale, and extracting salt using vacuum technology to create pure dried vacuum (PDV) salt, modern salt production has revolutionised the volume and variety of salt that can be made.

Modern salt extraction processes have allowed salt with greater purity to be available with less contaminants and impurities making it suitable for a variety of industries from food preservation, chemical manufacturing, and water treatment.

One popular and modern salt production is the water softener salt, which primarily helps treat unwanted hard water in buildings. As an example, scale buildup can quickly arise as a hard, chalky deposit that can not only be off-putting aesthetically, but can also reduce the efficiency and lifespan of appliances. A product like our Kintetico block salt can help treat these within hours of application.

We can see how varied the history of salt is, from its evolution as a simple seasoning to a crucial element in trade, industry, and human development.

The UK’s leading national salt distributor

At PureSalt, we supply thousands of tonnes of salt each year to businesses and homes across the UK. We provide a personal service to a variety of destinations in the UK, from homes and hospitals to farms and factories.

The PureSalt team has an uncompromising commitment to providing quality salt products every time. With over 20 years of experience in the distribution of salt, PureSalt is here to support you with all your salt needs. We only offer the best quality salt from our trusted suppliers and our team will be able to advise which salt best suits your requirements so contact us today to discuss your needs.

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