Bíldudalur is a remote village in the Icelandic Westfjords that, during the winter time, can be somewhat difficult to reach. For two months during the winter, the sun remains hidden behind the mountains, and the weather as well as transportation into and out of Bíldudalur often present more than just a few challenges.
This makes Bíldudalur a somewhat unusual choice for a start-up producing high quality food supplements. But in 2009 Jörundur Garðarsson decided to do just that when he started Hafkalk. While working at the local factory processing calcium from calcified red algae for the agricultural industry, Jörundur had the idea of creating a high quality food supplement for human consumption. The reason behind this was the exceptionally high quality of the calcium as well as the many other essential minerals absorbed by the algae during their growth phase. He wanted to make this remarkable product and its inherent beneficial properties available to people all over Iceland. The minerals, besides calcium and magnesium, include some 74 minerals such as zinc, iron and selenium. Harvested after breaking down and settling on the seabed, this algae (known as Lithothamnion red algae) is naturally occurring in this remote part of Iceland and 100% organic. What’s more, it’s processed under an extensive sustainability management program supported by the Icelandic Marine Institute.
Because of the purity of the calcium, Jörundur decided to go all-in on sustainability and quality. He made all the supplements 100% vegan, organic and of the highest quality. As Jörundur explains, “there is so much focus in the industry on cost-saving and creating the cheapest product—but instead we decided to create the best possible product—the Mercedes-Benz of calcium supplements, if you‘d like.” Initially Jörundur was the first and only staff member, but in 2012 his son Jón Garðar joined the team. Today Hafkalk employs three people in total, which in Bíldudalur (pop. 225) accounts for a significant increase in the number of jobs. “I’m very proud of this place,” says Jörundur with a grin. “There are only a few places in the world where we have such a pure and pristine environment.” As for the benefits of the product, Jörundur explains, “I‘m close to 70 and I take ocean calcium every day. Before, I used to suffer from arthritis in my knees, but it has dramatically improved after I started making the product. Many people here in the community have seen dramatic improvements, and overall the feedback from consumers is great.”
After Jón Garðar joined the team in 2012, Hafkalk has expanded their lineup with several new products. With a strong presence in pharmacies and health food stores across Iceland, Hafkalk is looking to expand abroad—with the goal of making their product from this tiny corner of Iceland available to people around the world. Currently available in Romania, Hafkalk is looking towards both China and the US for future growth. Hafkalk ocean calcium is produced, processed and packaged in Bildudalur, which lends it the credibility and stamp of quality associated with products from Iceland—and that’s something that international markets can really appreciate.