They say necessity is the mother of invention. For the co-founders who created Sun Under the Sea, nothing could be truer - they all found dairy problematic and were looking for a clean alternative with added health benefits. Based in Nova Scotia, the small business started producing a dairy-free creamer made with marine collagen and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) sourced from coconut oil powder. The people behind the product may have different backgrounds and disparate ages, but they are united in bringing their product to people with similar needs.
“We're kind of on a mission to spark joy through inspired nutrition,” Alexandra McCann, one of the Sun Under the Sea co-founders, told us when we sat down to talk business. “We came into this company or decided to make this product mostly because we all kind of had dairy sensitivities,” McCann said of the company’s impetus. McCann had trouble finding dairy alternatives at coffee shops, so along with co-founders Jeremy Moule and Matthew Brown, they did their research and set out to create a new product.
We asked McCann why the group decided to use coconut oil powder and marine collagen for their dairy-free creamer. “We have a very keen interest in environment and environmental protection and supporting ocean health,” explained McCann. According to the benefits section of the Sun Under the Sea website, collagen is integral for the health of our skin, hair, muscles, tendons, ligaments, digestive tract, and bones and marine collagen is derived primarily from fish skin and scales and has the highest bioavailability among other collagens. McCann said the addition of coconut “is for medium chain triglycerides, which are great for providing extra energy and good fats.”
Back in 2019, the group started talking about making a dairy-free creamer. There was debate over whether it should be sweetened or flavoured, where the product could be manufactured, and where the ingredients would be sourced. In the end, the idea of a basic, customizable product won out. They went into production in August of 2020.
Initially, the dairy-free creamer was in specialty (often health food) stores, coffee shops and restaurants. The co-founders also brought the product to farmers markets, cafes and Christmas markets. As the product gained traction, McCann told us, “It was really exciting to see our product on the shelf.” The business is taking its next leap forward with a recent Sobeys listing gained through a local products promotion in the Atlantic provinces.
“I was constantly . . . showing up at coffee shops and places like that and bringing little things to put in my coffee and get it kind of just right.”- Alexandra McCann, Co-Founder, Sun Under the Sea
During product development in 2019, McCann and her partners knew it was important to become a GS1 Canada subscriber. “We realized if we wanted to sell our product . . . at a retail store or online or if we had customers in the US or if we do at some point want to go to Asia for example, it's super important to get that barcode.” McCann talked about the significance of unique identification and being able to provide trading partners with all the product information tied to a barcode. The vitality of a GS1 barcode was proven to McCann when she was working for another company: a barcode ownership dispute was settled because the rights were traced back to the proper owner.
McCann has had positive experiences dealing with GS1 Canada as a small business. “It can be overwhelming, and I have found that when you e-mail . . . people respond to you like right away and you don't have to be a big company,” she said. McCann has also taken advantage of webinars and other educational materials and noted the convenience of online availability. “I'm here in Halifax, but my other co-founders live in rural areas, so it's actually really helpful,” McCann told us. She also likes that she has access to the GS1 Canada community that includes other entrepreneurs and suppliers, allowing her to learn from their experiences and being able to share her own experience.
What lies ahead for Sun Under the Sea? “We are interested in international markets actually,” said McCann. That includes the US and Asia. Co-founder and CEO, Jeremy Moule, has already traveled to Korea for a trade mission. There's a lot of interest in both dairy alternatives and collagen-infused products in that part of the world. McCann told us, “Canada has a very good brand recognition for foods and natural products and things like that.” At present, the business is assessing regulatory and trade barriers, getting to know the market, and focusing on brand recognition. McCann hinted, “We do have some product development ideas in the pipeline for products that will build out our product catalog.” Sounds to us like they've found their sea legs.
Sun Under the Sea sells dairy-free collagen creamer that's also kosher. You can buy the product on their website, at Sobeys, and in select coffee shops and restaurants. To shop products and learn more, visit sununderthesea.com.