Bêche Nutraceutical Company: Adding value to sea cucumbers
Monday, October 18, 2021
As a business, Bêche is built on the solid foundation of Ocean Pride Fisheries, a specialty-seafood processor founded in 1986 by Milton LeBlanc. Based in Lower Wedgeport, near Yarmouth, the company began processing North Atlantic sea cucumber in 1999 — harvesting it locally, then processing and exporting it. Since 2010, Ocean Pride has focused exclusively on sea cucumbers.
“Sea cucumber has a lot of health benefits as a natural source of antioxidants, amino acids, fucosylated chondroitin sulfate, saponins, collagen, and Frondoside A,” says Milton’s son, Jules LeBlanc, President of Ocean Pride Fisheries. “It has also been consumed for centuries as part of traditional Chinese medicine. Ten years ago, we began doing R&D into natural health supplements. In 2018, we launched a product and started the Bêche business.”
Ocean Pride Fisheries operates the largest vertically integrated sea cucumber business in North America. “We’re always contemplating how to continuously grow, evolve or pivot to the next thing,” Jules says. “Our current approach is to use our expertise, strengths, and competitive advantage in Eastern Canadian sea cucumbers to identify opportunities to add value to what we have.”
Adding value is embodied in the company’s “Race to Zero Waste” initiative, which was set up to use the nutritional value in the processing of byproducts. “Before we look for new things to do, we’ve committed to making the most of what we already have,” he says. “That led us to create the natural health products line, and we’ve recently established a pet food line. So between these three product categories — seafood, supplements and pet food — our goal is to eliminate the waste from manufacturing and create value and diversity in our markets. It’s a way for us to grow our business without placing unnecessary pressure on the supply side.”
We’ve received funding for projects under several NSBI programs. I can’t stress enough how beneficial these are to assist in our growth objectives.
Bêche Nutraceutical Company
To meet the challenges of the “Race to Zero Waste” program, R&D is vitally important to Bêche. “Success in business is all about your ability to get product to market quickly and then turn to the next opportunity.” Jules says. “Over the years, we’ve received funding for projects under several NSBI programs. I can’t stress enough how beneficial these are to assist in our growth objectives. A dollar we save is not a dollar kept. It is a dollar used elsewhere in the value chain. The dollars invested by NSBI contribute exponentially to additional local investment.”
Virtually all of Ocean Pride’s business is export. Their first product in 1986 was herring roe, which they exported to Japan. Now they’re marketing sea cucumber to China. “Our export experience has been extremely beneficial for Bêche,” Jules says. “With NSBI’s support, we’ve attended trade shows and learned about trade barriers and cross-border regulations. We know what questions to ask.”
Throughout the pandemic, Nova Scotia businesses have applied for a range of government programs and funding. “NSBI was a silver lining,” Jules says. “They let us know about available programs and helped us to access them. They let us know when new ones were coming up that might fit into a project we had. Their turnaround time was quick, and they were quick to respond and to help us achieve positive results. The past year has given me a heightened appreciation for NSBI.”
Want to learn more about the companies doing business in Nova Scotia? Read the 2020-2021 NSBI Annual report.