The problem with vegan ice cream? Kianu Walker, who has been vegan for four of his 25 years, found the selection boring. “I didn’t see a really good variety of cool and delicious flavors,” he said.
So he got cranking, on his little Cuisinart ice cream maker, throwing out soy milk and then almond milk before settling on coconut milk. Plenty of experimentation followed, as did more little ice cream machines. Satisfied at last with the texture, he added such flavors as Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, cookie butter, green tea matcha, and coconut chocolate chip.
“Once I felt like I had a product that I believed in, then I decided to push it,” said Walker, 25, of Southwest Philadelphia, who says he’s done “a little bit of everything,” including clothing sales as well as housecleaning with his father’s business. He also toured as a rapper for two years.
About a month ago, Walker started selling his vegan ice cream around town under the name Vannah Banana Philly, a tribute to his sister Savannah. You can get it by the scoop at Nourish (Seventh and South Streets), Tattooed Mom (530 South St.), Queen & Rook Game Cafe (607 S. Second St.), Atiya Ola’s Spirit First Foods (310 S. 48th St.), and soon at Dreams (33 E. Glenside Ave., Glenside) and Vegan Commissary (1429 Wolf St.).
His bigger seller, and the flavor most available, is cookies and cream — Oreo cookies are vegan, after all. It’s nearly as creamy as dairy ice cream and, refreshingly, not cloyingly sweet. Walker also offers blueberry vanilla, chocolate almond, and rose gold, which includes rose petals and 24k gold flakes.
He has modest goals: “Build up a following and good relationships with restaurants and customers, and then save profits and eventually open a mobile cart or actual shop.”