Alcyon sea salt: a well-crafted game plan to brighten up our plates

Family photo Alcyon tree

La famille Arseneau - Fondateurs d'Alcyon (Crédit photo : Alcyon)

In June 2023, Alcyon, an artisanal producer of high-end natural sea salt, won the People’s Choice Provincial Prize at the 25th edition of the OSEntreprendre Challenge Gala, presented by Videotron Business. We’re proud to shine the spotlight on an SME that shares common values with ours, and that makes innovation one of the cornerstones of its growth plan. Meet Joëlle Arseneau, Alcyon’s co-founder, as she takes us on a journey to discover one of the treasures of the sea and offers us a glimpse at the organization's upcoming game plan.

Chef and food critic Samin Nosrat has mentioned in various forums that the success of a recipe is based on only four elements: salt, fat, acid, and heat. “For her, the most important ingredient of the four is salt,” says Joëlle with a smile. And having experimented with several of Alcyon’s products, one thing is clear: it's crazy how a pinch of salt can completely transform a dish or a snack!

A few years back, Joëlle's sister, Élisabethe, a biotechnology engineer, noticed that there was no local sea salt marketed in Québec. And now, a few years later, Alcyon is one of the first local companies to produce it in an artisanal way, providing consumers with a gastronomic and sustainable experience.

Their parents are also part of the team. “We are four people who are passionate about gastronomy. We found it inconceivable that salt, a staple ingredient in cooking, had no local alternative until now. And Îles-de-la-Madeleine is the perfect place to produce it, given our proximity to the natural resource,” explains Joëlle.

OSEntreprendre Challenge: riding the wave

Winning the People’s Choice Provincial Prize at the 25th OSEntreprendre Challenge Gala generated a great wave of love for the family, and for their products. “This win gave us a pat on the back, a dose of courage to move forward. The public has been behind us all this time and customers remain at the heart of our DNA” she says.

The Alcyon sea salt team had the chance to receive a visit from Manon Théberge, President and CEO of OSEntreprendre, at their Îles-de-la-Madeleine boutique during the summer of 2023. “She gave us the prize in person. It now proudly hangs in our boutique. People still talk to us about it,” continues Joëlle.

défi Osentreprendre

Several events soon followed the company’s win, including their first participation in Expo Manger Santé et Vivre Vert 2024. The company, which has received several nominations in various competitions, has also won the prix Fourchette bleue award in the category Transformation des produits marins du Québec.  

The winners of the 25th edition of the OSEntreprendre Challenge Gala are definitely keeping busy! As Virtuose Technologies, a Québec start-up with international ambitions, prepares to roll out its growth plan abroad, Alcyon is redoubling its efforts to brighten up our plates. Here are some of the milestones on the menu for this Québec producer.

Alcyon sea salt: an overview of their business plan

Continue to expand in Québec

“Alcyon salts are already available in about sixty points of sale throughout Québec,” says Joëlle. These sales efforts are now supported by a new online store, launched just before Christmas 2023. “We now deliver anywhere in Canada. At the moment, about 15% of our sales come from online purchases,” she confirms, proud of her new skills in web programming.

Chefs, restaurants, specialty grocery stores, and everyday consumers make up Alcyon's clientele. The next stage of the company’s growth plan will eventually be based on digital marketing initiatives. “Our strategy for the next three years is to be everywhere in Québec and then expand across the rest of Canada,” adds Joëlle.

“We now deliver anywhere in Canada. At the moment, about 15% of our sales come from online purchases.”

- Joëlle Arseneau

Product Alcyon bag

Enhance the existing product line

To ensure the desired growth, the goal was always to develop new products to enhance the initial line. The selection of flavoured sea salts currently consists of six products, to which two natural salts have been added. And a brand-new salt variety, developed with Québec producer Mycep (also a finalist at the same OSEntreprendre Challenge Gala), has just emerged: a salt with gourmet mushroom aromas. “A salt for every dish, a salt for every occasion,” says the entrepreneur. Foodies can therefore choose from nine delicious options for their dish!

The company also recently started offering chocolate products . . . salted, of course! And since early June, a new salt product has been added, for 100% circular economy. “Nigari, a salt-harvesting derivative. Nigari can be used as a coagulant for tofu, for example. This is a way to eliminate waste in our operations. We dedicated one year to its research and development,” she says with pride.

Improve our environmental impact

The words “pleasure,” “family,” and “human” are constants for Joëlle Arseneau, but these are not the only values driving Alcyon. The company especially values the environmental cause as well. “Sustainability is just as important as profitability,” says the co-founder.

In fact, they take concrete actions to limit the environmental impact of their operations. “Customers who visit the store this summer will have the option to purchase package-free salt,” she explains. So, bring your containers! “We are proud to apply sustainable practices to help preserve our unique environment while exploring new production techniques and offering an innovative product line that elevates each dish,” she adds animatedly.

Strengthen the operational aspect

With growth comes the inevitable issue of dealing with available workforce. “We would like to grow our operations, customer service, and digital marketing teams.” As you can imagine, recruiting people to come to Îles-de-la-Madeleine can become quite challenging. “There’s also somewhat of a labour shortage in the bio-food industry. Our goal is still to find ways to grow without necessarily needing a huge team,” she adds.

With the goal of strengthening operations in mind, purchasing new equipment is also in consideration to increase production capacity. “This equipment needs to keep up with our desire to grow,” the co-founder explains. Such equipment is available abroad; an in-depth analysis is therefore crucial before proceeding. This significant investment may eventually require funding.

Toit Alcyon sel de mer

Alcyon: 10 years from now

Videotron Business is proud to see how far the Alcyon team has come since the OSEntreprendre Challenge Gala. We always value local companies, as highlighted by our one-stop shop for innovative solutions, based on our different partnerships.

Alcyon is now riding the wave at top speed. The new online shop is spicing up the growth strategy—a strategy that’s in line with the Arseneau family’s values. So, Joëlle, where do you see Alcyon in 10 years? “Our goal is to make Alcyon a cuisine staple in Canada. We want to be in every dish!” she exclaims.

To get there, the team is counting on the best ingredients: the joys of being surrounded by the very best. “Being with people, working with my family, being a member of a tight-knit community: that’s why we do business. After all, business is people,” concludes Joëlle, quoting former Rona CEO Robert Dutton, whom she works with at La base entrepreneuriale HEC Montréal.

June 2024, By Videotron Business

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