Kula Foods: Afrocentric plant-based foods producer finds success through community
Made in Vancouver is a collaboration between Vancity and Daily Hive. Together, we’re turning the spotlight onto local businesses, organizations, and individuals who are helping to create a healthy local economy.
Vegan food maker and community builder Asha Wheeldon was inspired to start her entrepreneurial journey when she moved to Vancouver and discovered the joys of cooking plant-based food.
“While transitioning to a plant-based diet, I found myself experimenting in the kitchen by adapting traditional family recipes with plant-based ingredients,” Wheeldon said to Daily Hive. “I would invite friends to our home and loved the responses about the food. I found myself looking for ingredients and food that I enjoyed in Kenya and Toronto, which were mostly East African and Caribbean dishes.
Wheeldon actively looked for plant-based Afrocentric food and spices. Realizing that there was a need in the marketplace, she founded Kula Foods in 2018.
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Vancity has been supporting people in our communities since 1946. As part of our Made in Vancouver series spotlighting local businesses, we talked to Wheeldon about creating plant-based foods that were reflective of her unique and diverse experiences. Learn more about what Vancity is doing in your community at vancity.com
The plant-based food producer is popular for its plant-based meats, sauces, and stews as well as meal prep and catering. Kula items such as the Spicy Chick-Un Stew, BBQ Pulled Jackfruit, and Portobello Curry can be found on their website and sold through local retail partners.
The company also offers prepared meals and packaged products from Kula and local food producers for delivery and curbside pick up.
Acclaim for Kula Foods continued at the 2021 Planted Expo when the company’s BBQ Ribz Bites was awarded Third Place in Product of the Year awards.
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“Kula Ribz Bites blew us away! This product is the real BBQ deal. As soon as you open the package, you are hit with that perfect sweet and smoky BBQ essence,” said Planted in their award announcement. “Our judges could not say enough about the incredible flavour of these Ribz Bites, as they all licked their fingers clean. These just might be the best plant-based ribs bites on the market.”
Community has always been a big part of Wheeldon’s life and is reflected in her work with Kula Foods today. She co-hosts community-based cooking classes alongside Chris Boreland, owner of Elbo Jamaican Patties. The sustainable foods producer also showcases a curated list of products and food from the community on the Kula Foods website.
Growing up in Kenya, sharing food was an important part of everyday life. This inspired her to create something that was reflective of her unique and diverse experiences.
“Kula Foods’ ethos has always been connecting our community through nutritious, plant-based foods with diverse, bold flavours,” Wheeldon explained. “Collaboration and community are central to how we work and I think has been a key to our success.
“Our mission is to provide diverse flavours, and textures to encourage folks to consume more plants daily. We do this in a meaningful way by sharing resources, offering delicious plant-based foods and hosting events to connect to our community.”