• Pink Himalayan salt is used in specialty foods, spa treatments, and even home design, believed to have health benefits and healing properties.
  • This salt has a slightly higher amount of minerals than table salt, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthier.
  • 500 grams of pink Himalayan salt can cost R30, up to 5 times more than table salt. The main difference in price comes from marketing.
  • Visit Business Insider South Africa's homepage for more stories.

It might look pretty, but a pinch of this stuff will cost you. 500 grams of pink Himalayan salt can cost around R30, up to 6 times more than generic table salt. But why is it so expensive?

First, we need to look at different types of salt in the industry.

Table salt is often made by drilling into underground sea beds, pumping out the salt water, and then refining it in purification plants. This makes pure sodium chloride, taking away natural minerals like magnesium or potassium.

Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater using the sun or indoor heaters. It's not as processed as table salt, but there are normally no extra chemicals added, and its natural minerals stay intact.

Rock salt is different. In certain regions of the world, buried hundreds of feet below the ground are remains of evaporated seas. This mineral - halite - gets harvested by drilling the rock face, crushing the salt, and splintering it into pieces.

So is pink salt intrinsically healthier, and therefore should cost more?

Although there are reportedly an estimated 84 different minerals in it, only 2% of the salt is made up of these minerals (which give it the pink colour). This means pink Himalayan salt is nutritionally similar to regular salt.

There's an argument that it's more mineral rich. Does this have any kind of impact? Himalayan contains nearly 80 minerals, including phosphorus, bromine, boron, and zinc.

For the wellness market, a common perception of the salt is that it contains less sodium, which makes it a prized feature in healthy cooking.

The artisan salt market is booming though. Global salt consumption is forecast to be worth R204 billion by 2020. For the consumer, pink Himalayan salt is marketed as tasting more luxurious and flavourful. But does it taste better for the price?

Is the mining and distribution process what's making the product pricier?

Most of the pink salt mines in the world are based in the Punjab region of Pakistan, where the mineral stems from 200-million-year-old sea salt beds.

Here the cost of mining is relatively low, and the raw material is in abundance. The Khewra Salt Mine is the largest of these, producing 318,000 tonnes per year.

Even though there is a big supply, skilled workers here use traditional methods to harvest the salt.

And you can only find salt with this kind of colour in very few places, such as the Murray River in Australia and Maras, Peru.

For the wellness market, this rare salt also has healing properties. The producers of pricey salt lamps claim Himalayan salt helps to remove mucus and allergens from the air. And salt chambers at spas promise detoxification.

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