Going vegan no longer means having to give up all your favourite sweet treats and desserts.
While many F&B establishments have taken to adding vegan dessert options to their menus, specialty stores selling vegan treats are also gradually popping up around the island.
One of such stores is Kind Kones, an all-natural vegan ice cream brand based in Singapore.
Located at Forum Shopping Mall in Singapore, it serves ice cream that is free from dairy, egg, refined sugar, and other artificial additives.
It all started when co-founders Ishpal Bajaj and Serina Singhsachathet had the idea to experiment with making their own plant-based ice creams at home in 2017.
Serina told Vulcan Post that was looking for dairy-free desserts after she had her first child, but realised that they were not widely available at that time.
With her knowledge about plant-based and alternative milks, she started looking up recipes online and making her own ice cream at home.
At that time, the couple had no intentions to sell their homemade ice cream. However, they quickly realised that it could be a viable business, which kickstarted months of research and development (R&D).
Months Of Trial And Error
Both Ishpal and Serina shared that they had zero cooking experience, so the Kind Kones’ ice cream was born out of pure experimentation.
With Serina’s home-based ice cream machine, the duo started churning and mixing.
They started with the three basic flavours — vanilla, strawberry and chocolate — and deduced that if they could perfect them, they were on to something.
Although the ice cream tasted good, Serena felt that it was not something worth selling, which is why they decided to bring a chef onboard.
We literally started off in a home kitchen, with no food science experience. It was all trial and error, and winging it.
Thinking back, the ice cream was so different from what it is today. It tasted good but we couldn’t sell it as its something we would eat at home, but not buy.
Serina Singhsachathet, Co-founder of Kind Kones
After six to eight months of R&D, the duo opened their first Kind Kones outlet in a “small community mall” in Malaysia.
Scaling From Just A Single Store
Even though the husband-and-wife team were keen on having a store space in bigger malls, the management “were not so open to the idea of plant-based ice cream.”
The duo shared that getting people to believe in their product was a huge challenge, especially when there is an abundance of ice cream brands out there.
We faced a lot of challenges in the beginning, with people shunning our ice cream and questioning why they should eat it. There was a notion that plant-based or vegan ice creams would not taste good.
Ishpal Bajaj, Co-founder of Kind Kones
Despite the setbacks, the couple spent a lot of time educating their staff and customers on the benefits of their ice cream, for both vegans and non-vegans alike.
They added that the response to their first store launch was “fantastic”, which helped the business grow.
Soon, they started getting calls from other malls who were interested in having Kind Kones at their premises. The brand has since expanded to five outlets in Malaysia and one in Singapore.
Over the years, the brand has also grown its menu to over 20 flavours, including some unique ones.
For example, Blue Planet — which is said to look like the Earth — gets its tint from the blue pea flower and bits of matcha cake. Local flavours such as Durian and Pandan Gula Melaka are also part of the lineup.
A single scoop costs S$4.90 for the standard flavours, while premium flavours cost S$6.90. Other treats such as brownies, cookies, donuts and cakes are also available.
Sharing about COVID-19 challenges, Serena said that the crisis have made them stronger.
She added that when the circuit breaker was announced, her team had to scramble to set up an online presence within a day to keep the business going.
The silver lining is that the reach and presence of the brand soared tremendously.
“It was gratifying to know that people were still thinking about us at that time, and wanted to order our ice cream,” said Ishpal.
Since they did not have any logistics set up yet at the time, Ishpal spent his days driving around delivering ice cream to customers.
When Singapore’s economy finally reopened, the duo noted that their sales had doubled after the circuit breaker, as compared to pre-Covid sales.
Raising S$1 Million In Seed Funding
Earlier this month, Kind Kones announced that it had raised US$753,900 (S$1 million) in a seed funding round led by Singapore-based VC fund DSG Consumer Partners.
The round was also joined by Sabre Ventures, along with other investors.
Commenting on the funding, Ishpal said that it “gave (them) the validation that (they) are on to something; that there is a bigger plan here.”
Indeed, the couple has big plans for Kind Kones. A new outlet with a different concept is already slated to open this March at Paragon.
Serina shared that they have already had hotels and corporate partners reaching out to them to offer Kind Kones in hotels and offices.
She added that their priority is to ensure that the ice cream is shelf-ready, such that it can be stocked in supermarkets and hotels, while ensuring that no unnatural ingredients are used.
However, the success of the brand does not mean that the couple will be resting on their laurels any time soon, as Serina said that the brand is a constant work in progress.
Three years on, our ice cream is still a work in progress. We are still undergoing constant change and R&D. The process is ongoing and will be going on for awhile.
Serina Singhsachathet, Co-founder of Kind Kones
The couple also aims to always strive to provide a better way to indulge in sweet treats guided by a philosophy of being kind to your body, the environment, and to others.
That is what Kind Kones is all about.
Featured Image Credit: Kind Kones