Entrepreneur

This Former Accountant Traded In His Suitcase For A Pretty Cool F&B Business In KL

With so many vegan food options popping up around Klang Valley, we’re not too surprised that this is the second vegan ice cream maker we’ve written about in the last four months.

Kelava makes and delivers vegan ice cream throughout the Klang Valley. They have 6 main flavours, which are Strawberry Swirl, Salted Gula Melaka, Vanilla, Cookies and Cream, Chocolate and Matcha.

Their ice cream are handmade and churned with ‘kelapa and love,’ as according to Kelava founder, Azlan.

“The founding team consists of my wife, Aina and myself. Being 33 this year, I practiced accountancy for 10 years before deciding to start this venture. Both of us work together to market, sell, make and deliver Kelava ice cream.”

Azlan comes up with the recipes and handmakes the ice cream himself, whilst his wife assists with the marketing and sales. While he has dedicated himself to running the startup full-time, both of them are avid vegan enthusiasts.

“My veganism is rooted in the belief for animals rights, that all sentient beings capable of suffering should be treated with respect and fairness, especially when cruelty is not necessary.”

Azlan went vegan in July 2016 and has maintained the lifestyle since, strictly believing the good that comes with the practice.

“I used to love eating meat, and the idea of not consuming it seemed ‘extreme’. But the more I researched on the subject of animal farming, health and the effects of eating animals on the planet, the more convinced I felt that given this awareness, veganism is the way to align my behavior with what I claim to be my values.”

“Both of us are driven by the vegan lifestyle. We believe veganism is all positive.”

“My wife loves ice cream so when she followed me to embrace the vegan journey, I realised there wasn’t much vegan ice cream options available (back then). It was then I saw an opportunity to work on something that I’m passionate about.”

Image Credit: Kelava

Kelava launched in August 2017 and delivered their first order to Sala KL, a vegan restaurant located in Sri Hartamas. They started from a low capital running on personal savings and the number of deliveries fulfilled has been above expectations so far.

“The ice cream base is mainly coconut milk. We also use soy milk, starch and sweeteners such as organic cane sugar and corn syrup. The base is then assembled individually and manually in the kitchen.”

Coming up with smooth ice cream that has no animal content proved to be no easy task, as many hours in the kitchen were spent perfecting the recipe.

Through moments of trial and error, they managed to create the first batch with decent texture out of a cheap churner in June, which they consider their first significant milestone.

“I started experimenting using recipes from the internet. The first few batches turned out to be blocks of ice,” he shared candidly in an interview with Discover KL.

It took months before Azlan managed to find a formula he was satisfied with, but he’s still continuously improving it based on feedback from their customers.

“One of the most common feedback we receive has been that our cream has the consistency and texture of a ‘normal ice cream’ that many vegans and those with lactose intolerance crave so much.”

So far, the Salted Gula Melaka has proven to be the most popular flavour out of the six, with the nostalgic taste of its fragrant sweetness capturing the hearts of many Malaysians.

One tub of Kelava ice cream is priced at RM28 each, with free delivery with three tub orders or more. For single orders, a delivery fee of RM8 is imposed.

“We want, in however small way, to change the perception that vegan food is expensive and tasteless. The ice cream is made with no preservations whatsoever and we want to spread the message that our ice cream is for everyone—vegans and non-vegans alike.”

Image Credit: @wvdmalaysia on Kelava’s Facebook page.

Although he readily adheres to the lifestyle a vegan diet requires him to now, Azlan admits that the journey to be a full-fledged vegan was anything but easy.

“I was frightened that I would spend the rest of my life missing steaks and cheeseburgers. But it’s amazing how our taste preferences can change so quickly and I never wanted those things again.”

“In the beginning I lost weight simply because plants generally have lower caloric contents than animal products. I felt like I was always hungry. But now with a little bit of research and experience, I know what portions and combinations of food I need to take daily to go about comfortably.”

He goes on to acknowledge that eating out is especially challenging in Malaysia. Therefore, meal planning is something every vegan will have to do.

“I use the app called Happy Cow to help me find cafés and restaurants with vegan options when I’m in unfamiliar territories.”

“The most challenging thing I would say is the social aspect when dealing with people. Food and ethics are a sensitive and emotional subject. Not eating my mother’s cooking is tough not just to her but to me too.”

“Explaining to friends however nicely at wedding dinners why I don’t eat what everyone else is eating would usually not be followed with nods or smiles.”

Despite all the opposition he faces, he still stands his ground and encourages everyone to have courage.

The Kelava founders / Image Credit: Kelava

“Ever since being a vegan, I do a lot of endurance training like running and swimming and I feel like my energy level is way higher and I recover faster from workouts,” he says.

He adds that he doesn’t even get sick or suffer from headaches anymore—and even gets to save money on food, contrary to popular belief.

“The clarity of my mind improves—calmer, and no mood swings. I feel compassion towards all non-human animals, which is something really new to me.”

To sum up their vegan journey, he said:

“We are passionate about our food and sharing it with others. My taste buds are opened to different vibrant flavors I didn’t pay attention to earlier. I’m healthier and happier and to me that’s real wealth.”

Feature Image Credit: Kelava

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