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How Trident's food truck became a mobile test kitchen for Alaska pollock

Nearly a year in, the Fork & Fin is weaving a new story around Alaska pollock and innovating products.

Nearly a year into Trident Seafoods' food truck experiment, the motto remains the same: to educate people about Alaska pollock one bite at a time.

"What better way to do this than starting a food truck?" said John Salle, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Trident, who took IntraFish on a tour of its Fork & Fin food truck while it was parked at Trident's Seattle headquarters in July.

8befcdab048f3cf7fe69c3dfd13307b4 The Fork & Fin at Trident's Seattle headquarters. Photo: Rachel Sapin

"We’ve used it really to serve our stakeholders," Salle said of the truck, which has been in operation for nearly a year. "We refer to our stakeholders as our wholesale customers or consumers, fishermen, and our employees."

Trident food truck promotes pollock at University of Washington

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The truck, which operates all over Seattle five days a week, stops by Trident headquarters once a month.

It has also been a part of the Special Olympics USA games, toured the University of Washington Campus, and has been invited to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to serve its unique take on a fish usually hidden from sight inside fish sticks and surimi.

"We have a big wholesale foodservice business, but I like to say we put our money where our mouth is," Salle said.

"If we can serve it, be successful on the truck, it creates a story for our sales people to go out and talk to other restaurant operators about it."

20c2242607741b8055f59337e443dea2 John Salle of Trident at the Fork & Fin food truck in Seattle. Photo: Rachel Sapin

Peanut butter and jelly fish sticks?

The Fork & Fin may be one of the only food trucks in existence where you can try Peanut Butter and Jelly Ultimate Fish Sticks. And the description on the menu does not do justice to a recipe that is actually quite complex.

"It’s a raspberry chipotle jelly and a Thai peanut sauce. It’s that sweet, salty savory on fish sticks, which is unique," Salle said.

The menu item is a way to innovate the company's Ultimate Fish Stick, which has been around for over a decade.

A closer look at The North Star

The vessel has an length overall (LOA) of 79.7 meters, beam of 17 meters and is 4,459 gross tons

North Star Fishing Company (formerly Iquique US) is the ship owner.

Glacier Fish Company is part owner in North Star Fishing Company LLC and is the vessel manager

Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City Florida is the ship builder

Skipsteknisk, Norway is the naval architect

The shipyard contract was signed in December 2015 and an on-time delivery was scheduled for November 2018

The menu was built by a team of three chefs assigned the task of innovating the whitefish.

"It was all around Alaska pollock," he said of the menu's focus.

Of course the menu also features classic items such as Alaska Fish & Chips, which remains one of the truck's top sellers, along with the beer-battered fish tacos.

"We make our batter every morning," Salle explained. "We have a partnership with Alaskan Brewing, it’s an Alaskan amber ale beer batter. Every piece of fish is hand-dipped and fried."

a304e2654fe3b1bf1fe60d1f8b781f35 The Fork & Fin's Alaskan Beer-Battered Fish Tacos. Photo: Rachel Sapin

Trident is the first processor in the US seafood industry to do a skin-on Alaska pollock fillet for its fish and chips menu item, according to Salle.

That innovation came about from customer preference. Initially, Trident was using a pollock loin for the menu item, but found people liked the product even more when it was skin-on as a special item, Salle said.

Mobile marketing

The company uses the food truck as a test market for new products such as its California Roll Bowl, which is basically a deconstructed version of the sushi roll served over rice.

"We're trying to find more ways to get surimi into the seafood market," Salle said. "The idea here is everybody eats California rolls and they don't realize it's surimi seafood made with Alaska pollock in there."

Louis Kemp is the company's retail brand for the product.

"We're also trying to get our foodservice team to go out and show this as a new way for our restaurants to market surimi seafood," Salle said.

The company also uses the truck to promote products that are already in retailers. Its Alaska pollock burger is currently sold at Costco during the summer.

Evolution of a food truck

The food truck evolved from a storefront Trident formerly owned on the Ballard Locks, which closed last year. The area is one of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions and one of the nation’s busiest lock system in overall traffic. The storefront made a name for itself among locals, with unique products such as a Port Chatham smoked salmon brand that Julia Child reportedly once described as "divine."

"Our lease was up there," Salle said of the decision to start the food truck and close the store. "We said, 'Given our reach and the store, we want to do more.' It coincided with our company initiative to educate and create awareness around Alaska pollock."

Launched in October 2017, the Fork & Fin food truck is, simply put, a lot of fun. It describes Alaska pollock as cod's "salacious" and "often overlooked, under-appreciated cousin." It touts wild Alaska pollock as the most abundant certified-sustainable seafood species in the world.

"People don’t realize how clean a fishery Alaska pollock is," Salle said. He noted the fishery uses 99.7 percent of its product and most of the bycatch gets donated through the US nonprofit Seashare to food banks. Trident recently celebrated serving 20 million meals through Seashare, he said.

What's next for the Fork & Fin? Maybe avocado toast topped with pollock?

Whatever's next, Salle said the truck's mission remains the same.

"For the foreseeable future, the focus will be on wild Alaska pollock," he said.

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