An aeronautic engineer and a fisherman stroll right into a bar.
Truly, the true story goes: An aeronautic engineer and a fisherman went on an unique trip, then determined to launch a fish jerky product line.
The method of how they did it, nevertheless, wasn’t fairly that easy, mentioned Clarice Owens, who, with now husband Matt Owens, launched Wholesome Oceans Seafood Co. in 2013. The previous aeronautical engineer give up her profitable Silicon Valley profession to pursue the mission, whereas her husband used his 20-plus years of expertise within the sustainable fisheries business to reel in buyers and key gamers. However it wasn’t till 2018 that their first model, Pescavore, a line of better-for-you Ahi tuna jerky strips, debuted with deeply nuanced, international flavors in Smokey Poke, Caribbean Jerk and Island Teriyaki.
What was the five-year delay? She referred to Wholesome Oceans as “a gradual burn” firm as a result of they refused to take shortcuts throughout R&D and sourcing, plus their dedication to sustainability is the true deal. That’s evident on the packaging of being “wildly accountable.”
Owens, who acts as co-founder/chief know-how officer for the corporate, elaborated. “After we began with this mission, we knew we wished to not solely begin out with one thing sustainable, however we actually wished to make it possible for as we grew and serviced a much bigger market, we may actually keep our credibility and our dedication to sustainable fisheries. We led with that tagline.”
Whereas sustainability is vital for the Owens, they refuse to compromise with regards to their merchandise’ style and texture. Clarice Owens admitted that selecting the proper fish to show into jerky proved to be difficult.
“While you attempt to make fish into jerky, it simply doesn’t maintain up the identical approach [as beef does],” she defined. “That’s due to inherent limitations within the protein. For those who don’t know what you’re doing if you’re drying the fish, you’ll find yourself with one thing rancid.”
The R&D group went via a number of forms of fish earlier than they determined upon Ahi tuna. They made this determination after a number of makes an attempt to make use of flaky white fish, together with Dover sole, rock cod and snapper, failed. All of them fell aside in the course of the course of, she recalled.
“Our product actually requires a steakier fish since you should strip it down, and all through the smoking and packaging course of, you really want a fish that can keep collectively,” she mentioned. “Ahi tuna has a particular attribute in that it cuts like a bit of steak. It actually retains its type all through our whole course of … and it’s additionally simply delicate sufficient that it’ll impart taste, but not the overly ‘fishy’ taste.”
Why Wholesome Oceans is passing on the plant-based pattern
The corporate hasn’t jumped on the plant-based seafood bandwagon for a number of causes, together with the truth that it doesn’t consider it’s sustainable for a rising international inhabitants.
“The worldwide agricultural productiveness hole dictates that we are going to want roughly 70% extra meals to feed a inhabitants on observe to achieve 9.8 billion by the 12 months 2050,” Owens defined. “From our perspective, utilizing arable land and crops to provide so-called, plant-based seafood to service this rising inhabitants merely doesn’t make sense, neither is it essentially extra sustainable.
“The ocean requires no fertilizer, inputs and leads to no runoff and different deleterious outcomes of monocrops,” she continued. “For instant options and low-hanging fruit, we must be rising the attention of and consumption of actual meals, wild seize and aquaculture sources of seafood. But the sector is persistently mischaracterized with client schooling and seafood literacy trending within the fallacious route.”
Wholesome Oceans prefers to deal with what she refers to as so-called “blue meals,” that are mentioned to be accountable for a a lot lesser carbon footprint than different animal alternate options.
“For example, wild seize sources of seafood contribute as much as 97% much less carbon footprint than herd beef,” she mentioned. “The meals system contributes roughly one-third of all greenhouse gasoline (GHG) emissions, thus shifting demand to actual sources of seafood is a viable funding in a decrease carbon future.”
Extra on Pescavore’s “wildly accountable” mantra
Owens feels lucky that her husband has robust ties to the sustainable fisheries neighborhood and that he has deep information of seafood sustainability.
“We knew we wished to remain devoted to American fisheries, and we knew we needed to have sustainable catch, so it’s very useful to have somebody with the provision chain expertise and the credibility to talk to a few of these very nuanced and truthfully fastidiously advanced points that encompass seafood,” she mentioned. “It’s not a sector the place you possibly can simply resolve in the future that you simply’re going to be a sustainable seafood skilled. You want credibility. You want background and elements that thankfully my companion brings to the mission.”
Whereas she held that ace in her again pocket, there was nonetheless a lot to find out about creating a product on this scale. The journey started in 2013 with an enormous, 400-page marketing strategy, many journeys to Alaska’s fisheries, the acquisition and renovation of a producing plant, and all-nighters together with her co-packer (who sadly handed away in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic) and R&D group to make sure they have been heading in the right direction.
Owens’ engineering expertise got here in useful in the course of the plant’s renovation in addition to when the group settled on packaging. In what might seem like a controversial transfer for some, they determined to make use of plastic. For Owens, this determination was a part of the corporate’s “wildly accountable” mantra.
“Initially, the notion was that each plastic was unhealthy plastic, nevertheless, the function that plastic has had in making meals secure, sanitary, [with a] lengthy shelf life [and] decreasing waste [should not go ignored],” Owens mentioned. “There are particular makes use of of plastics which are accountable.
“The problem turns into making it extra round … [plastics] have 97% much less carbon footprint than alternate options like aluminum cans or glass. You will need to take a look at a complete lifecycle evaluation anytime you’re taking a look at packaging.”
Moreover, she confused, no matter supplies used for packaging should face up to the manufacturing course of. The plastic her firm makes use of suits the invoice.
“We needed to discover a materials that was appropriate for all the course of,” she defined. “We have been very considerate. We have been extraordinarily intentional about how we’d make the least impactful, most progressive product.”
These snacks are low on sugar, sodium, huge on taste
Ultimately, it all the time comes all the way down to, does it style good? With Owens conscious about this reality, she got down to develop a tasty, savory snack that wasn’t slowed down with sugar and sodium. Based on her, many fish jerky merchandise comprise “as a lot sugar as a can of soda” to cowl up the fishy style.
For her group, it was extra vital to chop down on sugar and salt and focus on the distinctive taste profiles of Smokey Poke, Caribbean Jerk and Island Teriyaki.
“We requested ourselves, ‘How can we really make fish jerky style good?’” Owens mentioned. “We determined the reply was utilizing international flavors that paid homage to the place they got here from, corresponding to Blue Mountain, Jamaica, a spot we regularly visited. We wished to create international flavors in a snack that might be engaging to folks whereas nonetheless being more healthy.”
Whereas Owens claimed it took virtually 10 years to good the flavors, her group’s efforts paid off ultimately. Pescavore received New Hope’s NEXTY Award for Greatest New Savory or Salty Snack in 2020.
In fact, they’re not stopping there. Owens mentioned they’re engaged on a brand new line of salmon jerky strips within the flavors of Cracked Pepper, Firecracker and Miso-Ginger.
“We simply need to make them the very best they are often,” Owens mentioned.
A lifelong Chicagoan, Audarshia Townsend is a veteran meals and beverage journalist who serves because the content material director for Meals & Beverage Insider. She additionally seems usually on native and nationwide media shops to debate meals and beverage traits. When Townsend’s not on the eats beat, she’s an avid yogi and meditation practitioner.