Worth Its Salt


Almost everyone has heard the saying “worth its salt”, meaning whatever has been purchased, the financial cost was more than justified by the benefits received. It is an emphatic statement. Short, with no ambiguity. Clear. No wool pulling. No hard sell. Its origins, however, are far more nuanced, with Roman soldiers using their wages to buy salt and other essential provisions, including their own armor and weapons. Somewhere along the way the Latin word “Sal” morphed into “Salary”. This subtle play on words serves to drive home the power of the analogy; the positive correlation between effort and cost of military service on the one part, and the reward for that service on the other. It really had to be worth the exchange.

The connection grows in appreciation as we come to understand that salt in the ancient world was both expensive and essential to everyday life. In an age without refrigeration, it is was an absolute essential to preserve meat, fish, and vegetables. As with most essentials, governments were quick to get in on the act. From ancient Rome to ancient China, rulers monopolized the production and distribution of salt and, of course, taxed it.

Getting back to those salted vegetables. At this linguistic juncture, we suddenly move from “salary” to “salad”, not to mention the French, German, and Spanish words, salade, salat, enslada, and even the Mandarin, shala.

This extraordinary feat by which one word covered the globe millennia before the internet, makes for an interesting story. It is however the use to which salt was put which explains why you would be hard pressed to find a culture where the saying one is “salt of the earth” is not understood, or as equally, “if the salt has lost is savor, it is good for nothing”.

What is helpfully present is the swift nature of the connection that lies in the observation. The clarity of link between a potential and the financial cost of that potential are not shrouded in some fog of obfuscation. Sadly, in the broader world of technology, device packaging, and manufacturing, such realizations rarely come with such ease or swiftness. Nor have certain modern advertising approaches helped.

Thus, millennia later, salt itself has become subject to the very distorted approach whose fallacies the ancients would have immediately seen through—not so much directly connecting salt to value (as trying to suggest that some salts are orders of magnitude better than other salts). Most readers will at least be aware of pink and others salts purportedly from the Himalayas. One or two might know of Korean bamboo salt at a mere US $200 a pound, or Kamebishi Soy Salt at a mere US $155. Yet these pale in comparison to the “cleverly combined”, “exceptionally rare” peppercorn and salt mix at US $35.99 for 50 grams promising to “bring your cooking to new culinary heights”. Some might say the only clever thing about it is the pricing, which shoots the total to US $300 a pound.

Brilliant marketing has projected a feel-good extravagance so strong and blinding as to distract the consumer from the critical question of, “What value does this rarefied salt actually bring, and, most especially, what is the crux of meaningful taste difference?” If it cannot be answered plainly, so the old adage goes, wool is being pulled over the eyes. In reality, so many added zeros usually resolve into paying something for nothing, and even worse. We have been sidetracked into missing something inestimably more important than the salt, the cook!

If you are a third-rate cook, expensive condiments are not going to make any difference at all. If you are an amazing cook, you can make an exceptional meal out of almost anything edible; sweat meats or escargot anyone? Against such a back-drop of high-level competences and innovation, the noun “cook” seems a severe understatement. Culinary engineer, designer, and inventor are more appropriate.

So, we come to the moral of our story.

In the micro-electronics, micro-construction, and vacuum soldering worlds that the majority of our readers occupy, the fundamental laws of physics mean that we all work in very similar “kitchens”, with a similar range of “implements”, using a common range of “ingredients”, and within the same parameters of fundamental “culinary” chemistry. What makes by far the biggest difference is what is done within these four parameters, by whom, with whom, for whom, and with what purpose in mind. The world’s best kitchens are not defined by cook-wear brands (though all demand quality), but by food of the appropriate quality and the people who create and serve a fine menu from them. A premier restaurant will have at least nine different specialist chefs and up to four layers of managerial chef.

Within the Palomar Group we have zero chefs (alas), but we do have a range of specific field experts and managerial engineers, who collectively offer many decades of experience meeting the highest demands of “menu planning”, together with a wealth of understanding of foods, ingredients and their optimal combination, using solid appliances with proven reliability, collectively gaining a few “Michelin stars” along the way. To approach one of our “chefs” for more information, contact us to help you better articulate your packaging needs, as equally help us make sure it gets to the right chef pronto. Bon Appetit!


Learn more about our Contract Manufacturing and Process Development services:

New call-to-action


Dr. Anthony O'Sullivan
Strategic Market Research Specialist
Palomar Technologies