Jacqueline Claudia is pictured at Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett, a fish farm in Norway. Courtesy Jacqueline Claudia

Ocean passion turns into career for Claudia

BOULDER — How does a coal miner’s daughter from western Pennsylvania get into the business of selling frozen farm-raised seafood dinners?

For Jacqueline Claudia, founder and CEO of Boulder-based Love The Wild, it’s about parlaying her childhood passion for the ocean into her everyday work. She grew up with dreams of exploring and saving the ocean.

“I’m a fish nerd,” she explained.

But she remembers being turned off by what passed for frozen seafood when she was a child: Heavily-breaded fish sticks of an unknown origin. She avoided them, despite her love of the ocean.

As an adult, she realized that seafood could be tasty, high quality and easy to prepare. Claudia set out to change the fish stick perception of her youth.

“Technology has come a long way,” she said. “Today’s frozen seafood is some of the freshest and highest-quality fish available. It minimizes food waste and has a low carbon footprint compared to the fresh-seafood supply chain.”

Her path to founding Love The Wild in 2015 was circuitous.

“I studied business at the Wharton School,” said Claudia, “and went on to work customer experience design, brand valuation and corporate strategy.”

She was introduced to the world of aquaculture when she worked on a venture called the Velella Project with Lockheed Martin and a Hawaii-based fish farm and research lab. It used Lockheed’s missile guidance system to track and monitor a mobile fish pen.

“It won Time Magazine’s Best Invention of the Year in 2012,” Claudia recalled. “I was hooked. I left my corporate gig to be a fish farmer and scale Kampachi Farms, where we grew fantastic sushi-grade yellowtail.” 

As she grew more impressed with the quality of fish, she took an interest in the sustainable aquaculture world. This led to a discovery that she could farm seafood using very little fresh water and less feed than the pounds of fish harvested. That equaled minimal environmental impact.

“This was a very big deal on a planet with a growing population and limited resources,” Claudia said.

But while it was easy to grow sustainable farm-raised fish, it was initially a challenge to get people to eat it.

Enter Love The Wild.

“I thought that a great brand could step in and do some of the work to remove the risk and intimidation from eating great fish more often.”

Part of her original vision for the company was to make an impact on both health and sustainability.

“If we could get everyone in the U.S. eating just the minimum USDA recommended servings of fish, we could reduce overall population mortality by 10 percent and deaths from heart disease by 35 percent,” Claudia said.

“That’s like the impact of smoking cessation and seat belts put together.”

Fish, especially cold-water varieties such as salmon, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that omega-3 can support health in numerous ways, including regulating heart and kidney function, reducing inflammation and maintaining blood pressure.

Claudia set out to develop several products for Love The Wild based on farm-raised fish and sauces. Variations include both red and rainbow trout with salsa verde, salmon with coconut red curry, and barramundi with mango Sriracha chutney. Love The Wild’s dinners can be prepared in the oven by wrapping the fish and sauce, which comes in cubed form, in parchment. They can also be wrapped in aluminum foil and grilled.

The response to Love The Wild’s products has been very favorable, said Claudia. Their brightly-colored boxes can be found at Whole Foods, King Soopers and Target, with more retailers on the horizon.

“We’re at a really exciting time for the company, launching new retailers, new products and new programs,” she said. “Beyond that, we’re focused on making a great product that consumers love, increasing their accessibility, and supporting the development of a sustainable aquaculture industry.”

Sustainability is a big part of the mission, for Claudia and the company.

“From a values perspective, we are my vision,” she explained. “It’s not been easy, but I’m proud that in some ways we’ve grown our business and our impact faster than I thought was possible.”

To exemplify that vision, the company carefully handpicks its partners to ensure the accountability and traceability of their products. She described the practices they require of their partners:

“Using sustainable feed formulations that reduce or eliminate the use of wild fish to feed farmed fish; farm management practices that keep fish healthy without unnecessary antibiotics; environmental stewardship; and a commitment to integrity and continual improvement.”

Love The Wild’s communications strategy also reflects her vision. In its social media feeds, it engages customers in lively discussions around seafood, sustainability and health. Recent posts include a link to a video on whale songs and a friendly response to someone’s concerns about dwindling fish populations.

According to Claudia, that kind of strategy stems from her belief that there is no separation between life and work.

“I think that you should work to align your life’s passion with your work. Then you don’t need to separate. For me, building this vision into a company that’s making a difference is my idea of fun and fulfilling.”

Her belief, and how it drives Love The Wild’s culture and products, have even attracted some big-name attention. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio invested in the company last year, stating that it aligns with his ethics.

“Eating fish is better for the environment than other meat protein,” DiCaprio explained in a Facebook post. “The health of the planet depends on the health of the ocean, which is why I support and invest in Love The Wild and their efforts to help all of us do our part.”

“Having someone with Leo’s influence and credibility supporting Love The Wild is an incredible vote of confidence,” said Claudia. “We’re lucky to have access to his network of like-minded folks, who can help us build a great company and advance our shared sustainability goals.”

Despite the attention of a Hollywood star, Love The Wild founder and CEO Jacqueline Claudia remains modest.

“At Love The Wild,” she explained, “fish is the hero.”

BOULDER — How does a coal miner’s daughter from western Pennsylvania get into the business of selling frozen farm-raised seafood dinners?

For Jacqueline Claudia, founder and CEO of Boulder-based Love The Wild, it’s about parlaying her childhood passion for the ocean into her everyday work. She grew up with dreams of exploring and saving the ocean.

“I’m a fish nerd,” she explained.

But she remembers being turned off by what passed for frozen seafood when she was a child: Heavily-breaded fish sticks of an unknown origin. She avoided them, despite her love of the ocean.

As an adult, she realized that seafood could be tasty, high quality and easy to prepare. Claudia set out to change the fish stick perception of her youth.

“Technology has come a long way,” she said. “Today’s frozen seafood is some of the freshest and highest-quality fish available. It minimizes food waste and has a low carbon footprint compared to the fresh-seafood supply chain.”

Her path to founding Love The Wild in 2015 was circuitous.

“I studied business at the Wharton School,” said Claudia, “and went on to work customer experience design, brand valuation and corporate strategy.”

She was introduced to the world of aquaculture when she worked on a venture called the Velella Project with Lockheed Martin and a Hawaii-based fish farm and research lab. It used Lockheed’s missile guidance system to track and monitor a mobile fish pen.

“It won Time Magazine’s…