Salt has been at the heart of Schweizer Rheinsalinen since the first salt deposits were discovered in 1836. “Following 15 years of boring, Carl C. F. Glenck, who owned saltworks in Germany, discovered salt and founded the first saltworks in Schweizerhalle in 1837,” says Managing Director Dr. Urs Hofmeier. In 1909, the merger of the Schweizerhallen saltworks with three others resulted in the formation of Vereinigte Schweizer Rheinsalinen, or United Swiss Saltworks. At that time, the cantons still had the monopoly on salt production. It was only in 1973 that the entire salt production was united and Schweizer Rheinsalinen AG got the exclusive rights to the production and distribution of salt.
“The 25 cantons transferred the monopoly on salt trading to us but remained shareholders. The canton Vaud was the only one to transfer its monopoly to another partner, but it will merge its saltworks with Schweizerhalle BL and Riburg AG to form one group,” points out Dr. Hofmeier. Liechtenstein and Südsalz GmbH from Heilbronn are also shareholders. Schweizer Rheinsalinen has contributed immensely to the region’s economic upsurge and has helped to boost industry in Switzerland. “Just think of our vanguard position in the development of the chemical industry in the northwest,” adds Dr. Hofmeier. “Early on, it established a stronghold in the region, triggering positive economic development.” Today, Schweizer Rheinsalinen focuses on the production, import, processing and sale of salt, salt blends and brine. It offers a wide range of products, including de-icing salts, table salts, agricultural salts, trade and industry salts, water softeners, regenerative salts, brine and bath salts plus a number of external salt products.
“We supply classic evaporated salt for electrolysis. We supply the whole of Switzerland, and in recent years we have continuously increased our storage capacities for a total salt reserve of 250,000 t. We are well prepared for any cold, hard winter,” says Dr. Hofmeier. Storage capacities are adapted to weather conditions, with de-icing salts making up 30 to 50% of the overall production. “Winter services are critical as mobility is important to our society. The economy has to be kept running, and people want to get to work without major disruptions. Expectations are high to tackle winter problems,” says Dr. Hofmeier. “Studies have shown that de-icing with salt is superior to any other method. We use homogenous grains of salt for an even spread pattern. High-tech gritters spread salt on the roads, which has led to a considerable reduction in salt consumption.” Salt is indeed an efficient means to keep roads free from ice and snow. Nevertheless, excessive use of salt has a severe impact on the environment, and distributors of salt have to keep in mind the motto ‘As much as required, but as little as possible.’
“A new technique has been introduced to reduce the distribution of salt to a very low level while still providing sufficient thawing,” adds Dr. Hofmeier. Schweizer Rheinsalinen has introduced a new de-icing salt under the Taufix brand, including additional services for communities and cities. Rented silos are also offered with highly efficient online control and automatic ordering. “The demand for salt is calculated online, and if necessary the required salt surplus is delivered at short notice,” states Dr. Hofmeier. In cooperation with the firm Saline de Bex SA, a new premium table salt called Sel des Alpes, in addition to JuraSel, will be marketed. The table salt is produced with glacier water.
“De-icing salts are the bulk of our production, but salt is also a flavour enhancer,” points out Dr. Hofmeier. “We provide a vast array of table salts, such as JuraSel and sea salts, rock salts and herb salts. We have long-term relationships with wholesalers, who are supplied directly, and we are able to deliver at short notice.” Salt from Schweizer Rheinsalinen is also used in industry. It is not only used in the conservation of hides and intestines and for manufacturing wood pulp, cellulose or glass, but is an important ingredient in cosmetics, hygiene products and plastics. “Even the high-tech production of computer chips relies on salt. In medicine, pharmacological salts are used that have to adhere to strict hygiene standards. We hold all the required certifications for foods and pharmaceuticals. Saline de Bex is certified as a sustainable company,” notes Dr. Hofmeier. Today, the company employs a workforce of 170 at its locations in Schweizerhalle and Riburg.
“Our customers demand competent services to deal with any questions that arise,” adds Dr. Hofmeier. “Our employees know the business inside out and deliver impeccable services for the benefit of the public.” Every year, Schweizer Rheinsalinen invests 15 million CHF in development and modernization. “We have a close eye on the future of our saltworks,” says Dr. Hofmeier. “We offer a commodity product and have to bring it to the customer. We need to keep costs low for industry by providing efficient IT concepts for order and distribution processes.” A look into the future of Schweizer Rheinsalinen reveals that securing salt deposits until 2075 is decisive in staying competitive on a European level. Here, the political will of each canton is crucial. The company has always lived up to its mission of supplying the necessary amount of salt at any time.