Coconut Goodness Food Products Inc.

The Cultured Coconut: How Linda Peers Turned Her Curiosity into a Probiotic Powerhouse

Looking back, you could say the origins of Linda Peers’ entrepreneurial journey started back in her home kitchen in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when she first started experimenting with dairy alternatives for personal use. At the time, however, starting a business was not on Linda’s radar.

“I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Gee, I feel like starting my own company,’” she says. “It was just curiosity. I had been making my own coconut milk as a dairy alternative, and I thought, maybe I can enhance its value by using fermentation.”

Experimenting in her kitchen, Linda stumbled upon a unique formula of coconut milk fermented using kefir grains. Within a month of consuming her own experiments, Linda started noticing improvements in her own health. She began sharing her creations with family and friends, who then encouraged her to sell her product as a natural probiotic.

Linda is no stranger to understanding market demand. With a marketing background spanning more than 40 years in advertising agencies in Toronto and Halifax as well as in-house marketing leadership roles, Linda has a keen eye for business research. So she decided to dig into the numbers.

“I was shocked by how many people in Canada have gut issues,” she says. “I started to research the prevalence of digestive disorders and discovered that more than 20 million Canadians were suffering, at a cost of $18 billion (2000) annually in health care costs and lost productivity. Looking at the numbers, I thought, there could be a good business case here.”

Linda started small, leasing space in a licensed kitchen and selling her product at a farmers’ market on Thursday afternoons in the same building. Word-of-mouth quickly spread about The Cultured Coconut. Customers, and later medical professionals, became avid supporters, propelling the brand’s growth solely through organic referrals and glowing social media reviews.

Since then, Linda has led the company through two successful scale-ups to meet increasing demand. She also initiated a full microbial analysis of her kefir that was conducted at a food bioscience lab in Cork, Ireland, which confirmed its value as a natural probiotic with a potency significantly higher than any other probiotic supplement on the market.

Securing a listing with major Canadian grocery chain Sobeys marked a significant milestone for The Cultured Coconut. After selling well in regional stores, the Supplier Diversity Manager at Sobeys worked with Linda to expand her reach and opportunities for growth with a national listing.  Sobeys Inc. is a corporate member of WEConnect International and committed to supporting women entrepreneurs and advancing supplier diversity in Canada.

“Linda had an innovative, differentiated product that fulfilled a customer need in the wellness space,” says Stephanie Amos, Supplier Diversity Manager, National Sourcing at Sobeys. “What was also impressive, was her tenacity to go from product ideation to on shelf at a national retailer, that is no easy feat!  I’m proud to support Canadian, women entrepreneurs and be part of an organization that is committed to fostering inclusion and innovation in the supply chain.”

As a new product, WEConnect International Certification also played a role in establishing credibility and trust in the market. By obtaining certification as a women-owned business, Linda not only differentiated her brand but also tapped into a growing demand for products that align with consumers’ values. The Women Owned logo became a symbol of quality and authenticity, resonating with the predominantly female customer base.

“The vast majority of our customers are female, and as a result, the certified Women Owned logo displayed on our label has made a significant impact on their purchase decision,” Linda says. “Additionally, women have been in the forefront of founding/running independent health food stores as well as being wellness category decision-makers in large organizations. Securing certification with WEConnect International has established an important point of differentiation from our competitors.”

Looking ahead, Linda envisions further growth opportunities, including expanding into international markets. But she intends to stay true to her humble roots, still handling all social media and customer inquiries and deepening her commitment to in-house manufacturing.

“I simply followed demand,” she says. “I’m not driven by money. Sure, you need to have enough to keep the lights on and equity for future growth, but my amazing team and I feel so blessed to be helping customers in such a positive way. That’s a huge reward in itself.”

Through it all, Linda’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs echoes her own journey: validate demand, stay true to your values, and be prepared to overcome obstacles with creativity and determination. For her efforts, in addition to receiving thousands of positive social media recommendations from around the world, Linda has been recognized by EY as an Entrepreneur of The Year® finalist and was recently named a “Game Changer” by Natural Products Canada.

Learn more about The Cultured Coconut at theculturedcoconut.com.