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Atlantic Sea Cucumber has struck a deal with five Toronto health store chains to sell its capsules
Not aesthetically pleasing (“fresh, they look like a slimy football”), Nova Scotia sea cucumbers are selling in Ontario and the U.S. and bringing glory to the company processing them.
AKSO Marine Biotech and sister company Atlantic Sea Cucumber harvest sea cucumbers off Cape Breton, dry them at their Hacketts Cove facility and ship the dried product to Toronto to be capsulized.
In the last year, 12-million capsules sold for $74 per 120-capsule bottle under the Nova Sea Atlantic brand, and last month the Retail Council of Canada named them the best over the counter health-care product of the year.
The capsules are on Nature’s Emporium, Purecell Natural Foods, Kim Natural, Riverview Medical and Clovers store shelves in Toronto. Dried sea cucumbers, about the size of a thumb, are sold at Costco in the U.S. in one-pound packages for $45, and online through Costco Canada for $60.
The success of the dried product is what led AKSO to develop the capsules.
Sea cucumbers are fished the same way scallops are.
“Most of the fishermen we’ve dealt with are scallop fishermen and they kind of use this as an extra license to do work outside their normal season,” said Lincoln Ellsworth, business development manager for AKSO.
The variety that Atlantic Sea Cucumber processes is also found in the waters off Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Quebec. A different variety is found in the Pacific Ocean.
One sea cucumber a day, keeps the doctor away.Posted by Atlantic Sea Cucumber Ltd. on Saturday, July 23, 2016
Virtually all sea cucumbers are dried before being consumed, but Ellsworth says they can be used fresh in soups or a stir fry.
“I usually hear it compared to a mushroom. Its texture is unique, but it does absorb the flavour of what it’s being cooked with,” he said. “Health Canada has allowed us to state that it’s got antioxidants, and it’s very potent in the antioxidant category.”
AKSO is partnering with researchers to legitimize claims that Chinese medicine makes about other powers possessed by the sea cucumber, claims Ellsworth doesn’t feel comfortable making publicly.
“We’re targeting health conscious people, especially those who do their own research, because we’re not making any claims,” said Ellsworth.
Sam Gao, owner of both companies, said the antioxidants contained in sea cucumbers, part of the Chinese diet for more than a thousand years, are better absorbed into the body in capsule form.
“North American people and European people, they don’t know how to cook the dried cucumber, so they’re not able to get the benefits,” he said. “Chinese people cook it as food, or use it as a gift for the older generation. Sea cucumber, in Chinese, means ginseng of the sea.”
AKSO Marine Biotech is partially funded by ACOA and the National Research Council. Gao says he is also close to an agreement with Perennia, the provincial body tasked with assisting farmers, fishermen and processors. That agreement would be to work together on a study of how to extract collagen from sea cucumber.
Gao, who employs 20-25 people at the Hacketts Cove facility depending on the season, said if capsule sales progress as planned he will also set up a capsulizing factory there.
“Capsulizing is easy,” he said. “It should be at least ten people working here on the processing side, plus research people.”