Today we're sharing a peek behind the scenes of Neptune Snacks of Seattle, WA. The company's origin story is so awesome! It starts with a marine scientist who saw an opportunity to connect his personal mission (to restore a healthy relationship between humans and the sea) with questions he kept getting from friends and family (What sort of seafood SHOULD I be eating?)
Neptune Snacks was soon created, and Nick is on track to bring healthy and sustainable ocean-sourced snacks to all of us. Don't miss the origin story of the company name, which we love, as well as the long list of other small local businesses that Nick and his team are big fans of!
Now...on to the interview with Nick!
How did you get started? What were your first steps and how did it evolve from there?
To be honest, I never imagined I’d be the Founder of a snack food company, until it was clear that this was the clearest path to continuing on my personal mission of working to Restore Humankind’s Healthy Relationship with the Sea, which is now Neptune’s official mission. I started my career in marine science and sustainable aquaculture research and have dedicated my life to the role that the ocean plays in our global food system, but I soon realized that there were few connection points between the work and the general public, consumers, who have the power to vote with their dollar toward a better seafood system. Meanwhile, as ‘Nick the Fish Guy’ to friends and family, I was always being asked, “what seafood should I be eating?” and for recipes that “make eating fish easier..” Sustainable Ocean Snacks with a rich story felt like the solution.
Pictured above, Neptune Snacks founder Nick Mendoza
Founding this business allows me to work everyday toward the legacy I want to leave behind, while getting people excited about the science of sustainable seafood through products that can be held, eaten, and shared. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
How did you come up with your name?
I’m glad you asked this one! As a marine scientist, I was fortunate to sail on several trans-Pacific research expeditions on a Brigantine-style Tall Ship equipped for oceanographic research. Tall Ship sailors, to this day, maintain the traditions and superstitions of Olde, including my favorite one: The Swizzle. This is a celebration marking the end of a successful ocean crossing. On the eve of journey’s-end, the captain gathers the crew to offer congratulations and thanks to all, but before festivities can begin, a ritual toast is made to Neptune—the protector who grants safe passage across his realm. In this hallowed moment, the captain pours the first drink into the sea–“One For Neptune”, which was our company’s original name. Neptune seeks to maintain tradition and pay homage to our most valuable resource, the Ocean, for all that it offers, and encourage others to get onboard.
Tell us about your workspace!
We love our office and warehouse in the heart of Belltown, just a few blocks from Pike Place. The building was actually the original ‘freight center’ aka stables for Le Bon Marché, the predecessor to Macy’s founded in 1890. It has old timber floors and high ceilings. It’s a great place for Neptune Snacks and our team to call home!
The Bon Marche in downtown Seattle in the 1940s. Note that Neptune Snacks is located in the original freight center (not the department store itself)! Image credit John Boyd Ellis via kiro7.com
What makes your product special or different?
We are seeking to build a national brand around the idea of seafood snacking. The interesting thing is that the tradition of eating nutritious dried seafood is as old as humankind, and remains common in much of the world, but in the US it is something of a novel concept.
I think there are a few things that make our products special! We invested tremendous time and energy into developing delicious recipes that are familiar in taste and texture to other jerkies–and we’re proud that each of our products has won awards as a result, competing both in ‘seafood’ and ‘natural products’ categories! We feel that the combination of our product’s quality, our sourcing and sustainability model, fish-fisherman-fishery traceability, and approach to growing a new category is unique.
Do you have a favorite review or comment about your products?
Some of our favorite reviews are customers who were skeptical and became evangelicals for fish jerky–especially ones who usually don’t eat seafood (“This jerky is great! I hate fish!!! I can’t stand the smell of it and I can’t eat it. I try to eat it every now and again because it’s good for me but just can’t get past the first bite. THIS is a great protein source that really doesn’t taste fishy. I love it.)
I think my personal favorites are from moms, though! (“My two year old is sooo picky and won’t eat anything healthy but DESTROYS a bag of Neptune Fish Jerky. Hurray hurray!).
What’s your personal favorite product you sell?
Easy answer for me–the spicy cajun is my personal favorite! It has a bold, complex flavor and is great to snack on, or to add to pasta, eggs, ramen, pho…
Editor's note: Spicy Cajun is our favorite flavor too!!
Are there any great small businesses that you’re into right now?
What a tough question–there are so many in our Seattle community! One I love is Big Gin and Amaricano, who we regularly partner with for events. The Juniper in our Sea Salt and Juniper fish jerky is actually upcycled botanicals from Big Gin. Lucky Envelope is also a favorite local brewery. From the rest of the Neptune team, more for the list are: Le Coin, MariPili, and Bangrak Market, a block from our office. Knee high stocking co, Needle & Thread, and Betty's Room at Sunset Tavern.
Pictured above is Alex of Big Gin!
Do you have a favorite local restaurant?
I MUST call out Maharaja in West Seattle. When you walk in, it doesn’t seem like much at first glance, until you notice the narrow side hallway leading into a back room under a disco light. The back bar at Maharaja is everything that is great about a locals sports bar, where you’ll be greeted with your ‘usual’ AND you can order fantastic Indian cuisine while you sip your drink… and watch the Olympics? Truly a unique experience. Check them out here: http://maharajawestseattle.com/index.html
You live and work in West Seattle: do you have any favorite place to enjoy the beauty of your area?
I love living in West Seattle because it is a community where you know your neighbors and you look out for each other. I am also lucky to live next to the water around the point, so you’ll often find me taking a conference call in Xtratuf boots, standing on the beach in the intertidal. We also have an awesome Farmer’s Market on Sundays and so many awesome small businesses!
What's your favorite thing about Washington?
This isn’t the most original answer, but being surrounded by both high mountains and expansive water is second to none. I partly grew up on a cattle ranch in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, but fell deeply in love with the ocean, so it is amazing to be in a place with all of it in one place. The maritime history here is also really special. What a privilege to build a business in Washington state!
Just another day in Washington - gorgeous mountains and water all around!
Thank you Nick for taking the time to answer all our questions and share a little bit of your behind the scenes with us. We love what you are creating with Neptune Snacks and are excited to be a small part of your journey!
More Behind the Brand
- Mehdi of Villa Jerada (Moroccan culinary products)
- Megan of Good & Well Supply (candles and more)
- Brittnee of Wild June (artisan soap & spa products)
- Anne of Retreat Drinks (healthy hot cocoa)