David Hunter first discovered the health benefits of phytoplankton in marine algae while working on a marine farm on Vancouver Island. The original intention was to market the phytoplankton to shellfish farmers as a feed for commercial shellfish farms sold to restaurants.
Over 15 years later, Hunter’s product, Karen Phytoplankton, is a popular nutritional supplement sold through national drug chains like Shoppers, Lawtons, PharmaChoice, Medicine Shoppe, Guardian, and other retail outlets across Canada, including Costco.
âIn 2005, the phytoplankton selling proposition was that the shellfish that ate phytoplankton were two and a half times the size of regular shellfish,â Hunter said. “As a joke, my colleague started eating the phytoplankton he fed the shellfish because he liked the smell.”
Although he consumed the product as a joke, his colleague said he felt healthier and chronic illnesses disappeared after eating food from the ocean, which convinced Hunter to try it for him- same.
âI ended up taking the phytoplankton and had a scenario that completely changed my life,â Hunter said. âThe first thing I noticed was the general feeling of mental clarity and energy. I felt like when I was a kid. I used to struggle with a runny nose from allergies. Let’s go. Then the most important thing is that my lifelong struggle with severe migraines is gone. I haven’t had a migraine since that day.
Hunter then gave plankton to friends, who also said they felt healthier after taking it, and reported recoveries deemed impossible by medical standards. After all of this anecdotal evidence, Hunter decided to invest his time and money in producing phytoplankton for medicine. He moved to New Brunswick from the Vancouver area to lower his cost of living while developing the drug.
But it is obviously not easy to get a new product approved as a drug. Hunter encountered many obstacles and finally put his dream to sleep while operating a restaurant called Pickles in Sackville, New Brunswick.
âI couldn’t believe I had access to this life-changing, life-changing discovery and there was no way to market it without spending millions,â Hunter said.
One day, however, a friend suggested that she market the product as a health supplement.
âHe said, ‘why don’t you just sell it as a multivitamin and just let the product do the talking. “
This idea paid off and that pivot turned into the path he was looking for. In 2015, after 4 years of paperwork, Health Canada granted Hunter his license to sell. Soon Karen Phytoplankton (named after Hunter’s beloved mother, who was a nurse and died of cancer at age 46), was in big drugstore chains. Hunter says he hit $ 2 million in sales in the first two years.
According to a study done on Karen Phytoplankton, the product contains a mixture of calcium, magnesium, protein, total dietary fiber, omega 3, omega 6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin k and many other vitamins and minerals.
Hunter’s Company Blugenie sells Karen Phytoplankton in powder, tablets and capsules, as well as lotion, soap, shampoo and conditioner. There is even a pet powder.
He says many of his customers love the taste of phytoplankton (he describes it as a nori-like flavor) and the other half hate it, which is why it’s also available in a capsule. He also recommends mixing the powder with a favorite drink or smoothie.
âIt’s funny, half of people love the taste, the other half hate it. But powder still represents 45 percent of our sales, âsays Hunter.
The product has already gained approval from an NHL star. In 2017, Brayden Schenn (then with the Philadelphia Flyers) shot a video promoting the feel of his body after a teammate told him to try it. He admitted he wasn’t a big fan of the taste though.
âMy body isn’t as soreâ¦ I feel a lot better when I wake up in the morning,â Schenn said of Karen’s benefits. âYou don’t have that muscle pain that you would have after a gameâ¦ Ever since I started taking the product I feel amazing, and I will take it for the rest of my career.â
Today, the scope of the product widens even more. Karen Phytoplankton is sold in Costco stores in Atlantic Canada and Vancouver Island. Now, Costco is rolling out the product to more locations, including 12 this month in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Anyone interested in learning more about Karen Phytoplankton can visit www.thekarenproject.ca
This story is sponsored by Blugenie.