What do frozen fish and Leonardo DiCaprio have in com­mon? This Boul­der, Colorado, startup

Inc. (USA) - - CONTENTS - —HAN­NAH WALLACE

Four years ago, Jacqueline Claudia was work­ing in the aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try, in­tend­ing to be­come a fish farmer. Then she re­al­ized: No brand was cut­ting through the scary seafood-in­dus­try head­lines and mak­ing it easy for con­sumers to buy re­spon­si­bly farmed, nu­tri­ent-rich fish. To­day, the gourmet frozen fil­lets of Boul­der, Colorado– based Love the Wild—co-founded by Claudia and Christy Brouker—are in nearly 2,700 stores na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing Su­per Tar­get, Safe­way, and Whole Foods.

Clean Sourc­ing

Love the Wild works with farms across the world, most of which are cer­ti­fied or rec­om­mended by Seafood Watch, the Global Aqua­cul­ture Al­liance, or Whole Foods. Claudia and Brouker buy only from farms that are seek­ing to re­duce or elim­i­nate the use of wild fish as feed, that don’t use an­tibi­otics pro­phy­lac­ti­cally, and that have very low stock den­si­ties. Trout, one of the com­pany’s best-sell­ers, usu­ally comes from farms in the U.S., but in win­ter, when the fish stops breed­ing, LTW sources it from an open aqua­cul­ture farm on Lake Ali­curá, in Ar­gentina.

Por­tion Con­trol

The com­pany launched with a box of two six-ounce fil­lets start­ing at $15, but seafood buy­ers gen­er­ally aren’t keen to stock any­thing over $10 a box, says Claudia. So LTW also be­gan sell­ing a box con­tain­ing just one fil­let, which is what its re­tail part­ners carry to­day. “What we found is that a beefy guy af­ter a work­out ate two boxes,” says Claudia. “An older cou­ple on a fixed in­come bought one box and shared the fil­let. A young woman would use it as a gar­nish on a salad.”

Leav­ing a Trail

The fish in­dus­try is no­to­ri­ously opaque, but LTW makes it easy to find out which farm a fil­let came from—it’s on the back of each box. On­line, cus­tomers can find the name of the per­son who runs the farm and see what type of pen that farm uses—in­for­ma­tion con­sumers typ­i­cally can’t get when they pur­chase fresh fish. “We are a pain in the ass to work with, be­cause our cri­te­ria are so tight,” says Claudia.

Freez­ing Fresh­ness

Fish is frozen at the peak of qual­ity, of­ten within a few min­utes of be­ing killed. “Frozen tech­nol­ogy has come so far that most peo­ple can’t tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween some­thing that was prop­erly frozen and some­thing that is fresh,” Claudia says. Blast freez­ing, the tech­nol­ogy that LTW’s part­ner farms use, drops the tem­per­a­ture to mi­nus-20 de­grees Fahren­heit in about a minute, “caus­ing less dam­age to cell mem­branes and pre­serv­ing tex­ture,” Claudia says. Freez­ing also means the sauces—roasted red pep­per al­mond sauce for the striped bass, mango Sriracha chut­ney for the bar­ra­mundi—use zero fillers or preser­va­tives.

Ti­tanic, Any­one?

Last year, Brouker and Claudia at­tended Fish 2.0., a global busi­ness ac­cel­er­a­tor for the sus­tain­able seafood sec­tor. They met with VCs who ul­ti­mately passed, but men­tioned that one of their ad­vis­ers, Leonardo DiCaprio, was in­trigued. “They said, ‘Do you mind if we in­tro­duce you?’ ” re­calls Claudia. The ac­tor is now an in­vestor and an ad­viser.

When the co-founders were get­ting started, Claudia had to trans­port salsa verde to a po­ten­tial in­vestor and didn’t want to lug a whole gal­lon. She hap­pened to have a heart-shaped ice-cube tray left over from her daugh­ter’s birth­day party. “I put the frozen sauce in front of the in­vestor and he was like, ‘This is bril­liant! It sig­nals heart-healthy.’ And I said, ‘Yeah. Ob­vi­ously,’ ” re­calls Claudia. Cus­tomers now place the sauce cubes atop the frozen fil­let be­fore wrap­ping the dish in parch­ment pa­per and cook­ing it in the oven.

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