When Jennifer and Brett Cramer started The Spice Lab from their South Florida home in 2009, they never expected it to grow beyond their family customers. Now, the company has received extensive media coverage – from O, the Oprah Magazine, NBC’s Today Show, Cosmopolitan and many others – and earned numerous industry awards for its innovative products and packaging.
The Spice Lab is a women-owned and family-run business offering artisanal salts, spices, seasonings, teas and gourmet gifts from around the world in an array of packaging options. It earned recognition in 2017 as a Top 50 Women-Owned Businesses in Florida for the fourth consecutive year. Additionally, The Spice Lab was named 2017 Business of the Year by South Florida Business Journal for $3 to $25 million in revenue.
For Christmas 2009, Brett wanted to share his newfound fascination with gourmet sea salts with his family and friends. Enjoying carpentry as well as being an avid gourmet cook, he handcrafted a wooden base out of scrap lumber to hold test tubes filled with exotic sea salts from around the world. Friends wanted to give the unique wooden holders as gifts to others. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, he listed these gourmet salt collections on Amazon. On Monday morning, they were already sold out.
His wife, Jennifer, an interior designer, wanted to start a company and thought Brett’s creation would be an ideal way to enter the gourmet gift business. Her design background influenced the beloved, award-winning packaging of their products.
Their original dream was to open a small retail shop in South Florida and enjoy raising their family after Brett sold his tech business in early 2011. Instead, the couple quickly found themselves building a wholesale and online business selling artisanal salts, followed by spices, seasonings and loose teas. In October 2016, they finally opened that retail store and continued running their expanding production facility.
The Spice Lab utilizes Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) to ensure food safety. HACCP analyzes and controls biological, chemical and physical hazards in production processes that cause finished products to be unsafe and reduces these risks to a safe level.
All products are processed and packaged in their 75,000-square foot, HACCP- certified facility in Pompano Beach, Florida. The products are sold through gourmet markets, specialty shops, major retailers, grocery stores, online on Amazon and the company’s website. The Spice Lab also produces products for private labels and food services.
Leading the Way
The Spice Lab has become a major player in supplying the country’s largest merchants with Himalayan Pink Salt and other products. As one of the largest importers of the salt and an innovator in product packaging, The Spice Lab has become an industry leader in introducing this 100 percent natural, mineral-rich sea salt to the American consumer. In the past five years, Himalayan Pink Salt, as a grocery category, has grown 3,700 percent with monthly sales now reaching near $1 million.
A recent research report, released by Techonomic, cites about four percent yearly growth in 2016 for the spice and seasonings category, crediting the growing trend of more diverse and globally-inspired food in restaurants and grocery stores. As one of the leading providers of artisanal salts and seasonings in the specialty food category, The Spice Lab is well positioned to garner a significant portion of these sales.
Strong Team Culture
The Spice Lab prides itself on maintaining a diverse workforce of all ages and ethnicities. It hires the most dedicated workers, regardless of their background or circumstances. Most of the company’s workforce are hourly warehouse workers who handle the packaging, labeling and shipping of orders.
As a family-owned business, The Spice Lab strives to support other families by providing health and dental insurance, paid holidays and vacation and flex-hours. It also accommodates for child care needs and is supportive during personal hardships, resulting in a very low turnover rate and dedicated team.
Not Always Smooth Sailing
Though The Spice Lab quickly rose to stardom and success, it did run into some obstacles along the way. Until the company could move into its new 75,000-square foot facility in March 2017, production operated beyond maximum capacity in a 15,000-square foot facility. This caused the company to limit its pursuit of private label business and other markets, which now it is doing aggressively.
The company’s challenges ahead are to expand its customer base and build the team to take advantage of the quadrupled capacity space.
Loyal to Florida
The friendly atmosphere and mutual respect in the Florida business world attracts many companies to set up shop here. For the Cramers, a local banker helped them grow their business quickly.
Florida is not only home to a pro-business atmosphere and growing economy, but sunny weather year-round.
“No personal income tax and no snow are major selling points,” said Jennifer.
The Spice Lab has been recognized by elite publications across the country, from Los Angeles to New York City. Regardless, the company’s co-founders are determined to keep the business working from the Sunshine State.
“We both were born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, and would not consider living or working anywhere else,” said Brett.