Nutty Bunny vegan ice cream creator is unstoppable
By Nicole Rivard
Pamela Aflalo feels like she possesses a superpower.
While working to relocate her Connecticut-based vegan ice cream company Nutty Bunny LLC from Stamford to Norwalk where she could have a small retail shop in addition to her wholesale business, she came down with COVID-19.
She was able to fight off the virus in February without having to be hospitalized and also managed to open the doors to her new commercial kitchen and store on June 10, about a month after the state reopened.
“It’s been a little crazy. But good crazy,” she said with a laugh. “We were non-stop busy the first day. At times there were people waiting in line, which was exciting to see.”
Her daughter Sophie’s own health issues are what led Aflalo to launch Nutty Bunny vegan ice cream five years ago and provide it wholesale to retail partners in Connecticut and New York.
Sophie suffered from frequent colds that often led to breathing difficulties and coughing fits, Aflalo explained. She describes how she was on a “cocktail” of allergy medicines and missed weeks of school and was suffering terribly.
Through research Pamela discovered evidence of a link between allergies and dairy products, so she decided to try eliminating them from Sophie’s diet. Within weeks, Sophie was symptom free.
Since Pamela, a former IT industry consultant, was in the middle of a career hiatus as a stay-at-home mom, she enrolled in the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts so she could learn to create homemade, nutritious, and enjoyable vegan meals for Sophie. She completed the Chef’s Training Program in 2012.
Sophie missed ice cream—the vegan options available at the time did not taste very good to her. And Aflalo felt they had too many chemicals in them. Armed with her new culinary skills, she decided to make her own.
It took about a year to perfect the recipe. Sophie has been involved in Nutty Bunny since day one, especially with taste testing, ultimately approving all the flavors. She even inspired the name of the company.
“Nutty bunny was her nickname because she is really funny,” explains Aflalo. “The family was sitting around trying to come up with a name for the company, and it just made sense because the ice cream is nut-based.”
Aflalo also got advice early on from Marcia Selden Catering based in Stamford, Connecticut, the “it” caterer in the state for 38 years. She brought samples of her vegan ice cream to eight staff members and all of them thought it was amazing.
“One person said, ‘I don’t understand how this is not dairy,’” Aflalo recalls. “That was my favorite line ever. That experience gave me the confidence to turn it into a business.”
Vanilla is still Sophie’s favorite along with hazelnut chocolate crunch. “A lot of time she will combine a scoop of each,” Aflalo said.
Vanilla is also a top seller with customers too, followed by toasted almond and chocolate.
A farmer’s market in Westport, Connecticut, provides Aflalo with a valuable testing ground. For example, it is where she introduced orange blossom, and its popularity earned it a spot on the permanent menu.
Interestingly, she custom made that flavor for musician Ken Stringfellow, best known for his work with The Posies and R.E.M. His manager approached Aflalo and asked if she could create something fruity for his birthday because vanilla Nutty Bunny is his favorite ice cream.
Nutty Bunny’s newest flavor is cappuccino and Aflalo expects it will become a top seller. “It’s already selling really well. It is my favorite. I have it almost every day,” Aflalo said.
Nutty Bunny’s flavors are so crowd-pleasing that meeting demand has always been a challenge, but one that Aflalo is grateful for. Her new facility will allow her to triple production, which will come in handy since she launched an e-commerce site at nuttybunny.com on June 6. That means Nutty Bunny vegan ice cream can currently be shipped anywhere within 3-day ground transportation (see website) to all national locations very soon.
It is perfect timing, as the dairy-free ice cream industry is booming. Dairy-free ice cream sales are expected to surpass $1 billion worldwide by 2024 as consumers continue to ditch dairy, according to research by Global Market Insights.
The American market is expected to bring in $400 million in 2024. The sales forecast is linked to a shift toward healthier eating as well as a growing vegan population. In 2014, the report “Top Trends in Prepared Foods”
revealed that 1% of Americans were vegans. Then in 2017, the report revealed 6% said they were vegans.
“We have a really strong vegan following. I belong to all the vegan communities on Facebook and it is certainly nice to be a part of that community,” she said. “Some of our customers are not vegan, but they like the fact that we use pure ingredients.”
Unlike a lot of dairy-free brands that leverage corn syrup and cane sugar as primary sweeteners, Aflalo uses 100% organic, vegan, non-GMO ingredients. She starts with cashews (soaked overnight) that are processed in an industrial blender with house-made almond milk free of any additives (she uses the entire nut instead of straining out the nutrients), coconut milk and oil, and maple syrup as a sweetener, all of which are 100% certified organic.
As I sat outside eating my Nutty Bunny single serve container of cappuccino after chatting with Aflalo, I felt instantly happy, which is saying something during a pandemic.
Yes, going for ice cream typically has that effect on people. But Nutty Bunny increases that emotion tenfold when you think about the healthy ingredients and that its animal cruelty free. Not to mention it was delicious and it even has a light, airy feel-good bunny logo (courtesy of Sophie G. Designs).
Driving away, something occurred me. Superheroes do not always wear capes. Some wear aprons.