KULA Foods Creates Afro-Vegan Food for a More Inclusive, Plant-Forward Future

Victor Hugo Ramos ·

Culture and Community Inspire Asha Wheeldon’s Work at KULA Foods

This article is one in a series about business leaders in the Level program, now in its third year. Through the Level program, B Lab U.S. & Canada aims to support and partner with business leaders who are women of color to amplify their economic reach and community impact.

Asha Wheeldon’s recipe for KULA combines flavorful memories with circular strategies. The Vancouver-based Afro-vegan food company incorporates her journey from Kenya to Canada and her vision for a business that builds community and protects the planet’s future.

After moving to Vancouver, Wheeldon sought food, flavors, and spices that reminded her of home. Inspired by her East African family recipes, she launched KULA in 2018 with the goal of creating delicious nourishment and inclusive community connections through food.

“I grew up in a small town where our community grew vegetables and shared crops. I remember as a kid, cooking happening outside and lots of manual processing of grains that we used to cook with,” Wheeldon says.

The process and care that her family used to prepare food influences KULA’s sourcing and manufacturing. “It’s very intentional. The flavor profiles of some of our products are inspired by my hometown and family.”

The emphasis on local sourcing is part of KULA’s focus on creating community connections. Community has been the center of what we do and how we do it. We have built relationships with local suppliers, customers, and supporters for that reason,” Wheeldon says. It’s important for small-business owners “to share their stories, not just the products, for them connect with a like-minded and supportive community,” she says.

With KULA, Wheeldon also seeks to introduce more people to African flavors and traditions.

“Accessibility is important for those who grew up enjoying these products, but it’s also a great opportunity for those who did not,” she says. “We want to create opportunities for folks to not only access African and Caribbean plant-based food but also build community and contribute to our ecosystem.”

In the Q&A that follows, Wheeldon shares more about KULA’s origin story, the increase in African culinary options, the importance of becoming a Certified B Corporation, and more.

A key component of your business is partnering and purchasing from local suppliers. Why is this important to you?

Not only does this create visibility to where the source of ingredients comes from, but it also builds community and a circular economy and has a more positive impact on the environment. We are able to connect with local suppliers a lot easier and have built strong relationships through local partnerships.

The marketplace has seen an increase in African culinary products. What are you excited about and what do you hope to see more of in the industry?

I am very excited that more businesses and chefs are sharing rich and vibrant African food and products. There is a great opportunity in the market, and what I am loving right now is the features of natural food, beverages, and skin care products that are now available in the market.

How does B Corp Certification align with the legacy you want to leave behind?

Since the inception of KULA, the impact has always been the motivation. We built the brand based on values around community, culture, accessibility, and the environment. It’s important to us to invest in doing things that closely align with our mission and values, so B Corp Certification just made sense. It was just a matter of time. We knew of brands that we were inspired by that were B Corp Certified and the positive impact the businesses made. After joining Level, we have a very clear understanding of the B Corp mission and process.

We want to create opportunities for folks to not only access African and Caribbean plant-based food but also build community and contribute to our ecosystem.

What are some ways for people to support your business or the communities you serve?

The best way to support our work is to engage with our community of growing Black-owned businesses, and our retail partners, and reach out to us directly for collaborations. Our products are available on our website for shipping in Canada and the U.S. and we can also be found across Canada through our retail partners. We are currently working on an expansion to U.S. retailers.

B The Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

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