International Ice Cream Day: Katherine Backman of Nora’s Plant Based on How Veganism Brought Passion to Her Work, and Christy Cunanan of Cheeri Cheeri on Connecting with People Through Filipinx Vegan Ice Cream

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In this show, we feature interviews with the founders of two vegan ice cream companies: Local vegan and co-founder of Nora’s Non-Dairy, Katherine Backman and Los Angeles vegan and founder of Cheeri Cheeri, Christy Cunanan.

Katherine Backman, Co-Founder of Nora’s Plant Based, on Her Journey in Veganism Inspiring Her Ice Cream Success

Local co-founder Katherine Backman of Nora’s Non-Dairy vegan ice cream made with a creamy cashew base.

Katherine Backman kept family close and in mind with her psychologist mother being an inspiration to her majoring in psychology at McGill University and her car dealership-owning father leading her to working at lots in her hometown of Halifax and in Vancouver. Though she worked hard in both pursuits, she never found anything particularly compelling about her work. In 2016, she became vegan and found her passions in the environment, social justice issues, health and wellness, personal development, and plant-based living. It was when she participated in a family trip to Vancouver Island that her idea for Nora’s ice cream was conceived.

Katherine made her entrepreneurial dream of Nora’s ice cream into reality with her partner and co-founder, Tyler Bothwell, and the inspiration behind the name, their cat Nora. Armed with an ice cream machine and dedicated testing of cashew-based recipes, it took eight months for them to form their first four flavours. They debuted at the BC Food Processors trade show almost a year after that trip to Vancouver Island. The pair have successfully gotten Nora’s Non-Dairy into around 250 retailers in British Columbia and Alberta so far, selling more than 100,000 pints of their vegan ice cream already.

With the negative impacts of the dairy industry on the planet, on our health, and for the animals, they pushed for creamy and delicious flavours that could satisfy any ice cream lover while leaving dairy out of the equation. Katherine Backman has even made Vancouver’s 30 Under 30 list for the year 2020. Listen in on the story of Nora’s Non-Dairy with our exclusive interview of co-founder Katherine Backman.

Christy Cunanan, Founder of Cheeri Cheeri, on Building Relationships and Sharing Love for Her Culture and Teachings Through Filipinx Vegan Ice Cream.

Christy Cuanan, founder of Cheeri Cheeri, enjoying a bite of her all non-dairy traditional filipinx ice cream.

Christy Cunanan works as a full time Production Coordinator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and her past work has included Frozen 2, Big Hero 6, Moana, and Ralph Breaks the Internet. Her fondest childhood memories was listening to her grandparents’ stories about their lives in the Philippines and the culture which continued to shape her identity as a Filipinx-American, and these memories influenced the exciting and unique flavours that her company Cheeri Cheeri has created. She wanted to share her family interconnectedness and culture through the flavours of her culture from the Philippines to her hometown in Pasadena, California.

Cheeri Cheeri‘s story began in 2013, but became established to current vegan formulations and company name in 2017. Christy’s mother had taken on a vegan lifestyle, and the rest of the family followed in support as well. All recipes were modified to be plant-based by creating a coconut milk base and continued to be proudly flavours of the Philippines. Christy recalled that Filipinx cuisine before Spanish colonization, even in desserts, traditionally used rice and coconut milk. Plant-based foods are often overlooked as part of the roots of different cultures’ diets.

Christy’s focus in Cheeri Cheeri is to create vegan ice cream with Filipinx-inspired flavours for all, while keeping the names on the menu in their original language: flavours at Cheeri Cheeri include the vibrant green buko pandan ice cream using young coconut, pandan leaves, and sago pearls and luscious purple of ube buchi ice cream made out of what is commonly known as purple yam. The flavors are all produced based on what is seasonal in the Philippines, including Puto Bumbong, which is traditionally served during the holiday season. This is an intentional action to further situate these flavors in place to have them enjoyed in the same time when they would traditionally be anticipated.

Part of what makes Cheeri Cheeri unique is that the focus is not only on how the product looks and tastes, but rather how it makes you feel and how it brings people together. Those who are Filipinx, vegan, lactose-intolerant, or ice cream lovers, all gravitate towards the promise of a sweet indulgent dessert, and stay for the conversations and the teachings. In our interview, Christy talks about how you can eat as much of a food as you want, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will come to know the place or the people where that food comes from. Through her ice cream, she hopes to connect people with the lands, people and stories of the Philippines.

In light of Covid-19, Cheeri Cheeri is taking a break from being present at local pop-ups, and instead, Christy is focusing on her new project, Mooni Mooni. This new project aims to help bring together people in a new way that is adapted towards folks who are struggling with their mental health while being isolated at home during the pandemic. You can find Mooni Mooni on instagram as @itsmoonimooni.

Show produced by Grace Wampold and Leah Thompson, with web content written by Asami Hitohara and Leah Thompson