“Americans eat less fish than any other country, even though our doctors tell us to eat more fish” for myriad health benefits and “sustainability experts tell us to eat more fish” because it is the most efficient animal protein to produce, said Love The Wild founder and CEO Jacqueline Claudia.
She explained to FoodNavigator-USA that the disconnect between what Americans know they should do and what they actually do stems from a lack of innovation in the frozen fish case and a lack of understanding of the fresh fish case.
“Today’s frozen seafood case is full of highly-processed products made of commodity fish from questionable sources and the branding sucks,” making the products unappealing to many consumers today, she said.
At the same time, the fresh fish case is intimidating to many consumers because they worry about how the fish was caught and whether turtles or other sea creatures also were killed, and they don’t known how to cook it, she said. In addition, the high cost of fish deters experimentation and learning.
Claudia recalls that even though she grew up around fish, she never ate it as a child “except on Fridays during Lent, which was some of the most traumatizing experiences of my childhood.”
Without childhood lessons about preparing fish, Claudia recalls the first time she “dropped $40 on some halibut and all I could do was hope I bought the right fish and that I didn’t screw it up when I got home.”
The experience made her wonder if “a sustainable fish was easy to find, super easy to cook and tasted awesome, I would do it more often.”
Betting that other people would too, Claudia founded Love The Wild and launched beautifully branded frozen fish meal kits that contain everything consumers need to cook delicious fish at home.
Specifically, the boxes include one or two individually flash frozen fillets of sustainable fish “from people that I know are doing things right, with bold, clean ingredient-list sauces,” such as barramundi fish with mango sriracha chutney sauce.
The box even includes a piece of parchment paper and simple, easy-to-follow steps that show how to wrap the fish and sauce in the paper and bake in the oven.
“You cook the fish straight from the freezer in three easy steps – just like baking a cake from a cake mix,” she said.
She added the convenience and great taste of her six SKU line will “add new mouths” to the current $30 billion fish category in the US.
A more sustainable option than other animal protein
Love The Wild doesn’t just want more people to eat more fish – it wants to help feed the growing population sustainably by de-demonizing fish-farming.
“We just don’t have the fresh water or land available to keep growing animal protein the way we do today,” Claudia said, adding that if people stay the current production course they will source the last wild fish in her lifetime.
“Fish and aquaculture, or fish farming, is the answer,” she said.
She acknowledged that aquaculture has a bad rap, but said, “when done right it is incredibly clean, resource-efficient and scalable manufacturing supply of consistent quality, size and price – making it a manufacturer’s dream.”
She also argues that aquaculture addresses many consumers’ concerns about fish, which are mainly where it comes from and whether it is free from toxins and safe to eat.
Fish farming allows suppliers to control what fish eat so they can guarantee there is no mercury or toxins inadvertently consumed that could taint the finished product, she said.
Ready to scale
Love The Wild is ready to scale after spending the last year intentionally in only two stores, where it tested the market concept, flavors, packaging, directions and other elements of the business’ strategy.
“We have it nailed now and are ready to scale. So, starting on March 15, we’re shipping to a chain of 19 stores and plan to rapidly add stores after that so by the end of the year, we should be in several hundred stores,” she told potential investors at Rabobank North America Wholesale’s FoodBytes! pitch-slam in Brooklyn, NY, March 3.
From there, the company is well-positioned to expand into other categories to provide more sustainable food options. It also has plans to make more ready to heat and eat frozen meals, Claudia said.