One of my latest outings took me to the Washington Sportsman Show in Puyallup, and as a foodie I ended up at a table with some seductive tasting offers. The food was rockfish jerky. The man who handed it to me was not just holding down any show table, but was the Puyallup-based company’s CEO. And the story I heard was so intriguing, I simply have to share it with you.
Even as a kid, Nicolas “Nick” Mendoza was fond of fish. And when he had graduated from Stanford University a marine scientist, he knew he needed to bring two of his passions together – his concern for the sustainability of fish and the maritime world and his love for food. Having traveled more than 40 countries during his environmental studies, he had come across diverse traditional ways of conserving seafood effectively. And knowing that the snack industry meets a growing demand, he started experimenting with fish jerky. Why fish? Because it’s healthy, because it’s tasty. And why specifically rockfish?
“Groundfish have been off the menu for over twenty years because of overfishing,” Nick explains. “But a careful 40-year-agenda of rehabilitating fisheries has brought them back in even half the time, and we need to make consumers aware of their availability again.” Of about 50 different kinds of white fish, rockfish checked all of Nick’s requirement boxes. And the Pacific Northwest with an abundance of rockfish as a bycatch would become the focus of a brand-new company.
Nick Mendoza founded One for Neptune (as in libations) in late 2017 and launched the first products in November 2018. Sourcing through suppliers who are in direct contact with local fishing crews, One for Neptune can mark any batch of fish down to the boat by which it was caught, thus connecting the consumer and the providers and creating more awareness for the food chain. It doesn’t matter whether a fish is too big or too small, whether it’s symmetrical or not – after the rockfish has been processed, it’s sliced into bite-sizes anyhow. And aren’t they deliciously flavorful?!
“During our first year, we had our partnering company produce approximately 50,000 packages of rockfish jerky, each holding the equivalent of half a pound of fresh fish”, says Nick, who is currently preparing for another big show in Seattle. So far around 50 retailers, most in California, have caught on the conveniently pocketable jerky snack, and Director of Sales Jessie Trinchard is set to net more businesses who are equally passionate about sustainable food sources, environment, and bold flavors.
One for Neptune also got some huge attention at last year’s Fancy Food Show in New York. “I had no idea who suddenly grabbed a handful of my jerky, ran off, and returned with camera people and the press,” says Nick. The guy was none other than celebrity chef Massimo Bottura, owner of the world’s best restaurant, 3-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana, who had just made his discovery one of his top picks among easily 200,000 products.
In fact, Nick Mendoza and co-founder and CFO Garrett Delgado are involved in so much more than their versatile fish jerky production. “We are members of the Maritime Blue Accelerator”, explains Nick. The ten companies onboard the initiative have a declared goal to build a thriving maritime economy for future generations. They are supported by the Port of Seattle, WeWork Labs, Washington Maritime Blue, and Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee. “We are passionate about what we do,” says Nick, who aims to create more awareness for the versatility of fish and the importance of environmental responsibilities. Apart from this allegiance of maritime companies acting in concert, he and his half a dozen like-minded team-members have created networks with economically as well as ecologically inventive people and companies around the world.
The blog on One for Neptune (www.oneforneptune.com/) is as much entertaining as it is educating. Did you know, for example, that there is an annual meeting of fishermen in Astoria, OR, that is all about spinning yarns? Or that you can actually figure which fish are sustainably resourced, when you are doing your groceries, if you check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s recommendation list beforehand?
As I’m nibbling some yummy Norse smoke rockfish jerky (only recently awarded another food prize and available at One for Neptune’s online shop), I realize that I’m watching a stunning story that is only beginning to unfold. Nick has told me that One for Neptune will present something new at the Natural Products Expo West in Seattle in March; it will hit the market later this year, and I’m all curious already. And who knows what this young innovative company encompassing so many concerns of our and future generations will be able to move yet with their passionate engagement? I’m sure Neptune will grant them a journey that rocks.