Barnacle, Sealaska Announce Partnership
Team at Barnacle
JUNEAU—Sealaska and Barnacle announced a strategic partnership that will allow both Juneau-based companies to grow and have greater impact. Sealaska has acquired a minority stake in Barnacle, the first food business to create and manufacture products with bull kelp.
“Barnacle fits with who we are,” says 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.”
Barnacle uses locally grown, harvested, and foraged ingredients from Southeast Alaska. By manufacturing products close to where ingredients are sourced, the company employs resources more efficiently and keeps the value chain local—creating jobs and markets. Demand has jumped considerably since the company started just four years ago; in 2019, Barnacle worked with 200 retail partners to sell their products throughout Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California—doubling their growth each year since they became operational.
“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.”
Many of the company’s products are made of bull kelp, an essential part of the ocean’s ecosystem. Barnacle carefully harvests wild kelp to have the least impact, visiting a different kelp bed for each harvest and only taking a small portion. The company also uses farmed kelp, which requires no arable land, fresh water, or fertilizers. Kelp farming is a nascent industry in Alaska with a big upside for ocean health and coastal economies.
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 kelp salsa, 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 Alaska ingredients like blueberries, rhubarb, and spruce tips.
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.
Barnacle’s founders hope that Sealaska’s investment will enable the company to grow, expand its positive impact, and ultimately become a household name and pantry staple.
“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 association will enable Barnacle’s founders to learn from Sealaska’s other sustainable food businesses, such as Orca Bay and Independent Packers. The founders also look forward to benefiting from senior management support and connecting with Sealaska’s 23,000 shareholders to source ingredients and talent.
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