Erik Torp offers you a taste of Norway
Food and philanthropy to make a difference
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
In Erik Torp’s life ventures, many have dealt with helping others. In the case of his native Norway, he has exposed people to a flavor of the country through food.
Bergen native Torp, 80, served as honorary consul for Norway in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2018 and has lived in Philadelphia, where he raised three daughters, since 1989. He started Taste of Norway® in 2011 “to market innovative, healthy, high-quality Norwegian salmon products in the United States…that are easy…to prepare, yet minimally processed….”
Torp retired, but “I needed something to do,” he said via Zoom from his home in downtown Philadelphia. He became curious about Norwegian sjøsalt (sea salt).
“A woman from Oregon [Michal Bietz Øverland] started [the sea salt craze] in Norway when her family moved back to Norway,” Torp explained. “I found her story very interesting, the fact that she saw the opportunity outside her living room window.”
Øverland’s Havsnø (snow of the ocean), formerly North Sea Salt Works, is located in Aukra on the island of Gossen in northwest Norway near the Arctic Circle. She started the company in 2014 after sea salt making in Norway ceased at the end of the 20th century, becoming the first sea salt producing factory in Norway since 1864. A Viking area going back centuries and where her husband’s family had lived for generations, the entrepreneur drew on some of the Viking traditions in making the salt, “sustainably handcrafting our salt using only the cleanest Norwegian Sea water with the intention of reconnecting us to our environment and traditions,” it says on the website.
The salt is flakes, which makes one think of snow.
They also use 100% renewable energy.
They provide the salt for Røros butter (norwegianamerican.com/the-best-bleeping-butter-in-the-world) and Salty Provisions (norwegianamerican.com/salty-provisions) in Illinois, which makes flavored sea salt, and to shops and restaurants around the world.
Sea salt has become a craze, with even some junk foods advertising use of sea salt as if it is an alternative.
According to the Mayo Clinic “Table salt is granulated white salt… typically mined from underground deposits… processed to remove other minerals…commonly fortified with iodine, which is important for thyroid health. Sea salt is produced by evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes. It’s less processed… retains trace minerals… that add flavor and color (some may be nutritionally essential)… they contain comparable amounts of sodium by weight. Whichever type of salt you enjoy, do so in moderation.”
A ¼-teaspoon serving of the Norwegian sea salt has 540mg of sodium, but no calories, fat, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, or protein. Morton’s iodized table salt has 590mg sodium, 45% iodine, 0 everything else, but it’s processed and refined with chemicals. Recommended dietary guidelines for Americans is less than 2,300mg a day (almost 1 teaspoon of table salt).
Taste of Norway®’s first sale was Nov. 1, 2021. Torp’s sjøsalt is available in ShopRite supermarket stores in Philadelphia, a brick-and-mortar store in his own building and online. “It’s selling well in the store in the building, but I must add advertising on the shelf with the Norwegian flag and Arctic Circle. People will buy it because they are intrigued.”
The challenge, says Torp, is the expense. A regional competitor is selling a 2-ounce package of its sea salt for $9.95. “That’s crazy,” he said.
A store in Massachusetts is selling a 5.7-ounce Havsnø jar for $14.99. Torp is selling a 6.2-ounce packet for $15. In honor of this article, he will sell it 2 x $7.50 plus shipping. You can place your order online at tasteofnorway.store.
One venture Torp treasures is Cordog Bleu™all-natural dog treats. He employed women coming off welfare. Cordog Bleu™ won Employer of the Year from Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare “for commitment to Welfare to Work” in 2000. Women earned enough money to become self-sufficient.
“That was a fantastic business,” he said. “My wife at the time was a board member at People’s Emergency Center in West Philadelphia and suggested employing the women at the center to do something good.”
A Dutch-owned store Le Cordon Bleu sued Cordog Bleu™ over the name. Cordog Bleu™ had a federal trademark for its name and a statement in writing from Institute de Francais in Paris that “cordon bleu is a generic term and cannot be trademarked.” Torp spent $12,000 in legal fees.
“They kept waving this cease-and-desist letter,” said Torp. “Unfortunately, that put an end to the business [end of 2007].”
The good they were doing be damned.
The 30K Challenge
The other treasure is the 30K Challenge. When Torp was in the Royal Norwegian Navy from July 1963 to December 1964, he participated in a 30km (18.6 miles) march with weapons and provisions in backpack totaling 11kg (24-25 lbs.). The exercise was part of the Norwegian military since 1915. Originally done as an endurance test, it later served as a strategy to move many soldiers over a long distance quickly and that they would still be able to fight after carrying the load. Soldiers received “Det Militære Marsjmerket”—The Military March Badge—upon completion.
While some U.S. military adopted it, Torp created The Norwegian 30K Challenge Military March in 2017 that would involve all military branches interested nationwide. The backpacks would hold the same weight in charitable contributions for the veterans receiving services at care facilities. The purpose was “to benefit U.S. military veterans…to further deepen and strengthen the relationship between our two allied nations.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.