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As a traditional salt wholesaler, we attach great importance to ensuring the best quality for our salt. Learn more about our premium salt products and order from the Hamburg-based distributor August Töpfer & Co.

Salt – the mineral vital to life

Salt is not only a vital mineral, it is also virtually inexhaustible. Around 100 trillion tonnes of this condiment are stored as cube-shaped halite crystals in the earth’s salt deposits. These reserves alone are enough for more than 400,000 years. That’s not to mention the salt present in the oceans.

It is difficult to say when exactly humanity discovered table salt. What is clear is that our ancestors were already using salt 6,000 years ago, and salt merchants were considered one of the most important economic players. But not all salt is the same. Different types of salt have different qualities. A rough distinction is made between Sea salt, Rock salt and Evaporated salt.

Sea salt is obtained by evaporating seawater under the sun, which leaves behind sodium chloride. To do this, seawater is channelled into artificial basins – known as salt pans – where it is then evaporated. This is the oldest form of salt extraction and it still accounts for around 20 percent of global salt production today.

Most salt comes from industrial salt mines and the product is called rock salt. Underground salt layers formed millions of years ago, when peripheral seas and salt lakes dried out and sea salt crystallised under stone deposits. No matter where it comes from, salt is used in the kitchen primarily in the form of table salt, which we use to refine dishes.

About the salt products from ATCO

Since 1912, August Töpfer & Co. has established itself as a comprehensive provider for the food and non-food sector. Our traditional distribution company is also active in the salt wholesale trade. Buying salt wholesale is a passion of ours. As a salt wholesaler, we therefore offer you only products that satisfy the highest, organic-compatible quality standards.

We maintain close business relationships with producers of sea salt, rock salt and evaporated salt and only include high-quality salt products in our salt range. As an international wholesaler and salt distributor, the August Töpfer Group supplies leading European retailers and discounters, guaranteeing the highest standards, efficient logistics and secure transport.

Our three main types of salt


Sea salt

Tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors discovered that evaporated seawater leaves behind a layer of salt on the sea bed. Ancient civilisations like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used sea salt as a condiment and preservative and engaged in the international salt trade. Sea salt is the most traditional form of salt and, like table salt, consists of sodium and chloride. It also contains an array of important minerals and trace elements. As food, washed out sea salt is primarily traded on the market and is valued by the catering industry for its delicately mild taste. It is obtained using evaporating and filtering processes in seawater pans.

© barmalini/

Rock salt

While the extraction of sea salt requires a great deal of patience from salt panners, actual mining operations are required to obtain rock salt. One of the oldest salt mines in history is located in Wieliczka, Poland. It has provided people with rock salt since 3500 BCE, first as a salt evaporation works and later as an underground mine from the 13th century. Rock salt is the salt of long evaporated seas. It forms as a result of sedimentation and geological displacement and occurs as halite crystals in underground salt deposits. Due to its composition and low purity, mined rock salt is primarily used for industrial purposes.

© Julia_Sudnitskaya/

Evaporated salt

The most common and well-known type of salt is evaporated salt. It takes the form of a white, granulated powder and can be found in virtually every household. It comprises 99.9 percent sodium chloride and is characterised by an intense, salty flavour. Evaporated salt originates from brine. A brine is a salty, aqueous solution that occurs in groundwater springs and by the sea. However, brines are primarily made by drilling into salt deposits and pumping freshwater into subterranean layers of salt. Evaporated salt is obtained by evaporating the extracted brine in a saltwork, which then undergoes thorough cleaning processes. This process accounts for the majority of industrial salt production.

Salt trade – between tradition and modernity

Our business and trade relationships with global production partners have developed over decades, which is why we as a salt wholesaler attach great importance to the tradition of the salt trade. Salt has been a coveted commodity for thousands of years. And yet it was not even on the menu of prehistoric hunter-gatherers. They still obtained vital salts from the salt contained in the meat of their prey.

No later than when humanity adopted a settled lifestyle and with the beginning of agriculture was it necessary for people to rethink where they would obtain their salt. Since no industrial mining or artificial salt pans on coasts existed at that time, salt became a rare, precious currency. Salt monopolies played a major role in the rise of early civilisations.

For instance, during the Shang Dynasty in China in the 15th century BCE, salt was considered one of the Chinese “seven vital necessities”. Trade routes – or salt roads – traversed the globe. The most well-known routes include the salt road between Morocco and Timbuktu, the sea route between Egypt and Greece and the salt road between Venice and Constantinople.

In fact, it wasn’t gold or silver that made Venice so wealthy, but salt. In the Roman Empire, salt was one of the most important trade commodities and was supplied to Rome on the Via Salaria (salt road) from the Adriatic coast via the Apennine mountains. For their journeys, Roman officials and soldiers received a salt ration (or salary) called Salarium Argentum, which could be exchanged for money.

In Iron Age Europe, the Celts began mining salt at Dürrnberg in 750 BCE. Bad Reichenhall, Lüneburg and Halle were central sites for salt production and the salt trade in Germany. Major salt roads emanated from the saltworks in Halle. One of Europe’s main long-distance trade routes was the “Old Salt Road” from Halle to Prague until the 14th century.

Since medieval finance was based on the salt trade, many cities still bear elements this “white gold” in their name to this day. Nowadays, however, salt is no longer a rare commodity that is difficult to obtain. Buying salt wholesale no longer entails extensive effort and long journeys. You can conveniently order high-quality salt products from the salt range of August Töpfer & Co. KG.

Salt tax

For centuries, salt production lay in the hands of local rulers and colonial trading companies. As a result of the rareness of salt, governments were able to amass enormous quantities of capital in the form of a salt tax. Salt taxes were even levied in Ancient Egypt, Imperial China and the Babylonian Empire. They are therefore the oldest trade taxes in history.

Two prominent historical events reveal how controversial the salt tax was. The French Gabelle of Salt – a tax on salt – was one of the main reasons for the outbreak of the French Revolution. Similarly, the British salt tax in British-ruled India triggered Gandhi’s Salt March against the British salt monopoly, ultimately leading to India’s independence.

Approx. 4700-4200 BCE:

Early evidence of salt production and trade in Solnizata (Bulgaria), the oldest known city in Europe.

Approx. 4000 BCE:

Early salt production by people on Lake Xie Chi in the Chinese province of Shanxi.

Approx. 2600 BCE:

Salt extraction in Ancient Egypt from the saltwater lakes of Burullus, Idku, Maryut and Manzila, on the Mediterranean coast and in the “salt valleys” of the Nile Delta. Use of salt for preserving food, mummifying the dead and as a condiment.

Approx. 2000-1500 BCE:

Early industrial salt mining in Salzkammergut, Austria.

Between 800 and 400 BCE:

The golden age of rock salt extraction in alpine Salzberg during the prehistoric Hallstatt culture.

750 BCE onwards:

Salt extraction by Celts in the Dürrnberg salt mine near Hallein with its heyday around 600 BCE.

Around 400 BCE:

The salt road Via Salaria became the central trade route in the Roman salt monopoly.

10th-16th century CE:

The Old Salt Road connected the Lüneburg saltworks with the Hanseatic city of Lübeck, enabling the transport of several thousand tonnes of salt per year.

Between 1759-1764 CE:

The British East India Company took over the salt monopoly in India.


The salt tax and the British Salt Act prohibited the population in India from engaging in their own salt trade and led to Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930, ultimately resulting in India’s independence.


The French Gabelle of Salt, which was one of the causes of the French Revolution, was abolished.


The salt tax in Germany was lifted.

Salt in industry

You would be mistaken if you thought most salt extracted from mines or seawater ends up in food. In fact, 97 percent of all salt extracted is used in industry. Only three percent of global salt production goes to make table salt. It’s no wonder when you consider the fact that the human body only needs six grams of table salt per day to cover its salt requirements. That’s just about 440 level teaspoons per year. 

Important applications for salt in industry and commerce include:

Production of plastics, glass and aluminium

Production of caustic soda and chlorine in the chemicals industry

Production of soda from salt and lime

Water treatment, disinfection and decalcification

Paint and lacquer production

As dyeing salt for colouring and printing cellulose materials

Production of medications

Grit salt for de-icing roads and paths

Regeneration salt for dishwashers and washing machines

Production of table salt

Although there are different variations of table salt depending on the production method, it is collectively referred to as table salt or common salt. Table salt is characterised by its high purity. It is extracted from salt mines, salty springs or seawater.

Table salt obtained from rock salt brine through evaporation is called Evaporated salt. Evaporation produces salt crystals that are dried and filtered as salt brine. After removing the natural minerals and trace elements, almost 99.9 percent pure sodium chloride is left in the refined table salt.

Table salt extracted from Sea salt is obtained by evaporating seawater in salt pans, followed by multiple washing and crystallisation processes. Since the amount of sodium chloride lies at around 98 percent, table salt made from sea salt is considered more natural.

© Wavebreakmedia/

Use of table salt

Table salt is used in different amounts in almost all food and dishes. It helps preserve food like fish, accelerates the cooking time for vegetables and enhances flavour. The human body needs a daily intake of salt of between three to six grams, which means consuming salt in one’s diet is vitally important.

Shelf life of salt

In its pure form, salt contains no unbound water and generally has an unlimited shelf life. Industrially refined table salt is also non-perishable as food. However, some table salts contain additives like herbs, flavourings, sodium fluoride and potassium iodate (iodine). Since these additives can respond to moisture or oxygen and affect the quality of the salt, a best before date is provided for salt containing additives. Whether with or without additives, salt can be stored for unlimited periods in any case.

Storage of table salt

Although salt does not spoil, correct storage is important to prevent clumping and contamination. Table salt should never be placed near heat sources like ovens or stoves. Heat draws moisture from the air and can lead to condensation in the salt container. It’s also important to store salt in airtight containers, if possible. When stored in salt shakers, it can be a good idea to add some grains of rice as these absorb undesired moisture and keep the salt dry.