Chances are many consumers have had Wild Alaska Pollock (but not known it) as it is the staple fish in many common seafood products from frozen fish fingers and fish sandwiches. The next association consumers may make is its similarity to cod in appearance, that's because Wild Alaska Pollock is the direct cousin to cod.
However, there is so much more to the Wild Alaska Pollock species that has swam under the radar beginning with its strong sustainability story to rich nutrition profile (researchers ranked the species as the 17th healthiest food in the world), said Analise Gonzales, sales and new business development manager at Trident Seafoods, the largest vertically integrated supplier of Wild Alaska Pollock in the world.
Sustainable to the core
Trident Seafoods catches more than 1.3 billion lbs of seafood annually, 67% of which is Wild Alaska Pollock.
"Wild Alaska Pollock is really at the forefront of all that we do," said Gonzales the third generation of Trident Seafood's family business, which was founded in 1973 by her grandfather Chuck Bundrant.
Incorporating best practices with a massive emphasis on sustainability is not just the heart of Trident Seafood's business but also for the state of Alaska where Trident works with several local fishing communities to catch the species.
"Sustainability was actually incorporated into Alaska's state constitution," Gonzales said, explaining that Trident abides by strict regulations to avoid overfishing, an issue plaguing much of the seafood industry. According to Gonzales, Alaska’s groundfish resource is abundant and well managed; for every 15 fish caught, 85 others are left to swim and prosper.
"Sustainability is such a buzzword right now, but for us it’s really more than a badge or certification, it’s an investment in the future because we don’t want to be around for next season, we want to be around for generations and years to come."
Trident Seafoods believes the consumer education piece of Wild Alaska Pollock's sustainable roots and current practices is an untold story that needs to be shared with more people especially at a time when sustainability practices are weighing more heavily on consumers' minds.
Market research and sales data firm Nielsen dubbed 2018 'the year of the influential sustainable consumer' and that we're entering 'the decade of the sustainable shopper' as many Americans expressed their desire for more sustainable products. According to Nielsen, nearly half (48%) of US consumers said they would 'definitely' or 'probably change' their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. Retail sales of sustainable products grew by nearly 20% since 2014 with a compound annual growth rate that's four times larger than conventional products. By 2021, Nielsen forecasts that consumers will spend up to $150bn on sustainable products.
Aside from its sustainable fishing practices, Trident Seafoods has an entire part of its business detected to fish byproduct utilization which takes any of the leftover parts of the fish that don't make it to the center of plate and puts its through a cold extraction process leaving essential fatty acids in their natural state to produce fish oil supplements available online and through club channels.
"We aim for full utilization of all the species we catch," added Gonzales.
Super fish with super nutrition
High in protein (nearly 20 g per 100 g serving), low in fat, carbs, and cholesterol, Wild Alaska Pollock nutrition rivals not just other fish species but other raw super foods, according to research published in the journal PLoS ONE. Researchers ranked the fish as the 17th healthiest food on its list of 100 raw
foods, beating out Pacific Cod, Atlantic Cod, and several types of salmon. Because of the pristine conditions of Alaska's waters, Wild Alaska Pollock has extremely low levels of contaminants (by US FDA standards), such as mercury. making it safe for everyone including pregnant and nursing women, to consume.
Wild Alaska Pollock also contains 393 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per four-ounce serving.
'We want to see more people eating more Wild Alaska Pollock'
While seafood consumption has been increasing slightly year-over-year, according to a 2018 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), fish still makes up a small part of the American diet.
"When you think of annual protein consumption, on average Americans consume about 200 lbs of protein per year and 14-15% of that is seafood, half of which is shellfish," said Gonzales. "We want to see more people eating more Wild Alaska Pollock, in more ways, more often globally."
Part of the solution is entering fine dining restaurants and working with chefs who can prepare Wild Alaska Pollock like they would any other high quality protein, thereby exposing more people to the fish.
"We are really trying to get into a lot more white table restaurants," said Gonzales.
Wild Alaska Pollock is appearing on more restaurant menus including Michelin-starred Eden in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, as well as in a number of other high-end restaurants in major culinary hubs including New York, LA, and Boston.
Increasing retail presence is another part of Trident's strategy to raise awareness. The fish is available through Amazon Fresh and the company is working on getting its products into more Whole Foods stores. Trident is very involved in product innovation developing new ways to incorporate Wild Alaska Pollock into other food formats. The company recently launched its 'Protein Noodle' available in select Costco locations that contains 70 calories, 7 g of carbohydrates, and 10 g of protein per serving. The ingredient deck reads: Alaska Pollock, egg whites, water, tapioca starch, cane sugar, sea salt, potato starch, and citric acid, and according to Gonzales cooks just like regular pasta noodles.
"I look at the fishing industry as a whole and it comes from such humble and hungry roots. I foresee that that next chapter will be continuing to raise awareness behind the beauty of this species that we are not getting enough of," said Gonzales. "The opportunity to raise awareness and increase consumption is endless," said Gonzales.