An investment in Alaska-based food company Barnacle is Sealaska’s latest step toward building a business portfolio that aligns with the twin goals of economic prosperity and environmental protection.
Barnacle, the first food business to manufacture and create products with bull kelp, celebrates local ingredients, creates markets and jobs, and invites customers into what makes Alaska magical. By manufacturing products close to where ingredients are sourced, the company uses fewer resources and keeps the value local.
“A deep reverence for this place and sharing its story is a part of our company culture,” said Barnacle partner Lia Heifetz. “It started with a passion for the wild foods that we have in Southeast Alaska, and for sharing those foods and the stories of the people and places behind them.”
Barnacle’s first intersection with Sealaska came in 2016, when founders Matt Kern and Heifetz won a Path to Prosperity business competition run by Spruce Root, the Southeast Alaska community development organization that launched in 2012 with seed money from Sealaska.
Now, four years later, Barnacle operates in a new Juneau facility and supplements the three partners with two year-round staffers and up to five more seasonal workers in the summertime. In addition to salsa, kelp hot sauce and pickles, the company offers dried seasonings made from kelp’s dehydrated fronds. Barnacle has introduced a line of jams and jellies that showcase local blueberries, rhubarb and spruce tips – “the flavors of Alaska,” according to Max Stanley, Kern and Heifetz’ partner in the business.
“Barnacle fits with who we are,” said Sealaska president and CEO Anthony Mallott. “Our shared values make this much more than a financial partnership. The intangible benefits of working and growing together will be widespread and impactful – here in Alaska and elsewhere.”
Sealaska’s investment will enable Barnacle to grow, expand its impact and – its founders hope – ultimately become a household name and staple in pantries and kitchens everywhere. All while cherishing Southeast Alaska’s beauty and bounty and improving health for people and the planet.
“Businesses can use what they have around them to do great things for communities and the environment,” Heifetz said. “We wanted to build a model that could be a tool for positive change in our little corner of the world, and beyond.”
The partnership will do more than simply enable Barnacle to grow production and expand into new markets.
“We’re excited about Sealaska as a partner,” Stanley said. The association will enable Barnacle’s founders to learn from Sealaska’s other successful, sustainable food businesses, such as Orca Bay and Independent Packers. The partners also look forward to benefiting from senior management support. And connecting with Sealaska’s 23,000 shareholders could open new possibilities for sourcing ingredients and hiring talent.