top of page
  • Writer's pictureRoann Byrne

The Sea Salt Seekers: A Journey to the Atlantic Coast

Boredom, the support of a local community, and constant learning is how Marie Holden and Brian Farrell created a sea salt brand

Marie and Brian

"It took a pandemic to afford us the time to come up with this idea. Being bored is how the best ideas can come about" 


The Story Starts 

Along the most westerly part of our rough and wild Atlantic coast, you’ll find two people, whose story feels like a Disney movie. It’s a story filled with a simple willingness to try, learn, and evolve. Marie and Brian like any movie character were bored, and as we all know “being bored is how the best ideas can come about”. So they started looking, at the coast that surrounded them and the incredible foods being produced on the Dingle Peninsula. Cheesemakers, jam makers, ice cream, sausages, fresh veg, fish, local meat, bakers and beekeepers - no salt. 

“But there was no sea salt” 

Marie and Brian walking carrying seawater

They had their pinnacle lightbulb movie moment. And so off they “headed to the ocean after watching a few documentaries on sea salt” (as we all do?), collected some seawater and after a couple of attempts “we made sea salt on our kitchen hob”. Two important takeaways here, one, you can start from anywhere and two, this is a great example of how a seemingly negative situation (the pandemic) can change everything. They didn’t want to make a light powdery-textured sea salt, they had a vision to make sea salt flakes and crystals. Brian’s work as a chef for 25 years luckily backed up the possibility of this, and they said from the start that it ”was of utmost importance that if we add flavours to our range we will use only the freshest and best of ingredients”. 

The Hard Parts 

Lack of finances was an issue starting out. So they started locally, created their M.V.P (minimum viable product), and approached their local shop, ‘Ventry Post Office’ who were very supportive, and only too happy to trial it for the couple. The next day they got a call to say it had sold out and they needed more. News spread fast, and more shops around Dingle began approaching them wanting to stock their sea salt.  


West of Dingle was born.  


“Scaling up was and is the biggest challenge as our business grows”. Both Marie and Brian are inventive and have come up with ways of scaling up from home so far. Their honesty is refreshing, and they admit “it's not all plain sailing, every day can meet you with new challenges and hurdles. Problem-solving becomes your new normal you just need to adapt and overcome each issue as it arises”.  


Making it  

Marie and Brian make every part of what goes into their salt blends. “Every element of every process is made right here by both of us”, and that is a strong direct line to the consumer. They make their wood dust from Dingle whiskey casks, used to cold smoke their whiskey sea salt. They ferment their black garlic in-house, “which is a long but worthwhile process”, they even hand zest every single lemon for their lemon and rosemary flavour. Long but worthwhile, they know they're building something bigger than themselves, longer than themselves and they're willing to invest the time and love into that. 


“Every element of every process is made right here by both of us” 

Brian sifting sea salt


This is reflected in their customer response. With a 100% increase in sales year on year, allowing them to grow West of Dingle, take on new stockists and build a website to grow their online platform. Chefs have described their salts as sublime and consumers say they’ve been converted. I think, bar the incredible unique flavours they bring to the table, their story and knowing you are getting it from Marie and Brian makes all the difference. If a salt can make you feel like you are standing on Dingle harbour, smelling and tasting the Atlantic Ocean, that’s pretty powerful.  



Marie advises to “ask more questions” before starting a business venture.  


"Seek as much help as you can there are lots of resources out there and free information. Check out your Local Enterprise Board. It can be a good starting point".  


“Talk to as many entrepreneurs as possible and try to learn from other people's mistakes, not your own”. The unexpected costs of things such as packaging, labels and equipment can be an issue for small businesses, as you end up paying more for smaller amounts. Marie notes buying in bulk is cheaper in the long run, but having space to store it is another headache.  

West of Dingle Sea Salt Range

The Future 

'2024 is bright for the pair as they have two new products launching this year. New product development is a core part of their business, but most importantly they say "We go at a pace that suits us which means we're in it for the marathon, not a sprint!". Pacing is never easy as an entrepreneur, especially in an ever-evolving food landscape, but if you want

longevity not just as a business, but as a person - it's vital.  


"Beyond that, it's something we are constantly working on. We are constantly learning and evolving" 

Brian harvesting seawater


Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs 

For anyone with a food dream (shoutout to the wonderful Gastrogays): 


"Just do it! If you are passionate about it and believe in your product others will too. It's hard work but so rewarding at the same time. We wouldn’t change it for the world".  


"It takes a village so make sure you surround yourself with good people. Create your best team. Realise you can't do everything yourself". For Marie and Brian this meant getting help with branding, photography, marketing, web design, and a food business coach. She advises simply "let the experts do what they are fully trained to do, and your business will flourish".  

"Create your best team" 


Personal Touch 

"I think it's what we were meant to do. We've had long conversations over the years about having our own food business and what that would look like. We wanted to create something that people wanted and would contact us looking for, but we didn’t know what that thing was until 2021". 

Marie and Brian

"It was literally on our doorstep" 


Reflecting on their Journey 

The Irish public's interest in food provenance has grown massively over the past two decades. People are curious about their food and want to engage with their producers. We are lucky to be blessed with the quality of our producers, and the availability of food grown on home soil, reducing food miles and thus impact on the environment.  


Marie had four pieces of advice she wish she knew starting out:  


  1. Get a food business coach 

  2. Brand identity is so important 

  3. You need to spend money to make money 

  4. Know your customer demographic 

Marie and Brian describe the last three years as a "whirlwind".  

"There's been highs, lows, and lessons learned. It's made us stronger and determined but also more compassionate with other food producers and entrepreneur's as we now see it from the other side" 

Photography by Bryan O'Brien and Lorenzo Tonti

Photography by Bryan O'Brien and Lorenzo Tonti


bottom of page