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Kai Ryssdal: We have, as you might imagine, a news meeting around here every morning. Trying to figure out what the stories are that we’re going to cover each day. There are breaking news spots and feature stories. And then there are the usual suspects that help round out the rundown: random economic indicators, retail sales, and fast food, believe it or not. We could probably fill a spot on this show every day with news from the fast food universe, were we so inclined. And we’re not so inclined.
In fact, I’m happy to say I dodged a strong push from the meeting this morning to do something about Wendy’s French fries. I mean, c’mon — French fries?
Jennifer Collins: Hey, Kai!
Ryssdal: Hey Jennifer Collins, umm — live radio?
Collins: Yeah, I got that, but this French fry story is pretty good. Wendy’s is going to be rolling out a new kind of fries tomorrow. They’ve got the skins on, and they’re seasoned with sea salt.
Ryssdal: Sea salt. You came running into the studio, middle of the show, for sea salt?
Collins: Yeah. Have you watched a cooking show lately? Everyone seems to talking about salt.
Audio clip 1: And then the last sensation you get is that little bit of sea salt with the chocolate sprinkles.
Audio clip 2: This is an exciting salt. It’s actually called the fleur de sel.
Audio clip 3: And Mauldin sea salt and the whipped cream they hand whip. Sounds bizarre but it’s not.
More than a thousand new products with sea salt were introduced this year. Phil Lempert is a food marketing expert.
Phil Lempert: So what we’re really seeing is a new salt phenomenon taking place where we’re even seeing people selling blocks of salt that you would grate yourself.
Like a Himalayan Pink Salt Block for around $70. Lempert says sea salt’s new status gives Wendy’s a little more cache.
Lempert: In taste test after taste test, McDonald’s is always coming out first when it comes to French fries. This is going to give Wendy’s a point of difference and if nothing else get more people into the store to try the fries.
Lempert says sea salt is more natural and perceived as healthier than your basic table salt. Mark Bitterman is the author of “Salted.”
Mark Bitterman: I see Triscuits and Wheaties and Cheetos and everything using good salt someday in the future.
Collins: O.K. Cheetos. How can Cheetos use good salt?
Bitterman: How do you make a gourmet salt Cheeto?
Bitterman suggests Moshio: a Japanese salt made with a 2,000-year-old technique.
I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.