Last year’s Top 2019 Vancouver vegan brands blog was a hit, so here’s my list for 2020!
Despite COVID-19, plant-based and vegan brands were ON POINT in this city throughout the year. Even if your business didn’t make the cut, please know that I acknowledge and appreciate you! Biodegradable participation ribbons for everyone, hahah!
1. Vessi Footwear
Photo: Vessi Footwear
Vancouver-based Vessi Footwear came on the scene in 2019 for its 100% waterproof, sustainable, vegan sneakers, but they really impressed me when they offered thousands of free pairs of shoes on an application basis to frontline workers and teachers as part of their Community Fund efforts. In a time when businesses were struggling just to stay open, let giving back to the community, Vessi came out swinging. They also funded over 100 projects, raised $500K, and donated 420,000 masks. Don’t know about you, but I won’t soon forget about that.
Founders Mikaella Go and Tony Yu also received accolades as two of BCBusiness’s 30 Under 30 and Forbes’s 30 Under 30 in Retail & Ecommerce for the year 2021. Recognitions don’t necessarily make you a business with impact, but this team is proof that young people are leading positive change in the world. And, they’re on TikTok so they’ll be around for a while!
2. MILA Plant-Based
I can’t name another hotly anticipated restaurant opening in 2020 than MILA Plant-Based, owned by the same team as Virtuous Pie.
With a globally inspired menu, MILA’s bound to satisfy any palate. Shortly after opening, plant-based foodies raved about the Aburi Lox Oshi (above, traditionally made with salmon), desserts, and cocktails. While carrot doesn’t taste much like salmon, I vouch for the flavour! I haven’t come across anyone yet who’s had nothing but rave reviews for the place. They’re open for both lunch and dinner, AND they deliver.
3. Dr. Matthew Nagra
I’d been following Naturopathic Physician Dr. Matthew Nagra of Tonume Integrated Health since I met him at a workshop at Plant Life Nutrition in late 2019, but over time began to see how he’s our city’s very own “Earthling Ed.” I think one reason it’s difficult for doctors to “come out” as vegans or advocates of plant-based diets is because of the backlash they’re going to receive. It’s already enough that you’ve dedicated your life to the study of helping people become well, and now you have these idiot trollers coming after you in the comments of your educational post saying that you’re wrong.
A sought-after speaker and plant-based health advocate, Dr. Nagra takes these trolls and turns them into content gold later. I’m grateful he’s always there to dispel myths about plant-based protein or studies that say plant-based diets put you more at risk (among other topics). He’s a voice of science and reason among a sea of naysayers and carnivore flag-wavers. I mean, if you don’t ever plan to eat plant-based, that’s totally fine, but you don’t have to attack people who want to make it their lifestyle. And Dr. Nagra’s one guy you can be glad to have on your side.
He’s also teaching a course called “Prevent & Reverse Chronic Disease with a Plant-Based Diet” on planted (formerly Vancouver’s VegExpo). Check it out!
4. Kula Kitchen
Derived from the word “kula” meaning “eat!”, KULA Kitchen, founded by Chef Asha Wheeldon, creates Afrocentric plant-based family-style dishes and meals rich in flavour and nutrition. After living in Kenya, Wheeldon spent some time in Toronto which is rich in West African, Caribbean, and middle Eastern cuisine. After moving to Vancouver, she created Kula Foods to spread her knowledge and connect people through food.
I put them on the list because this year has been a pivotal one for Black people and it’s so important to support Black-owned businesses everywhere if we want to achieve racial justice. Chef Wheeldon continually put out Instagram posts with updated lists of Black-owned businesses and Black-run non-profits in the Lower Mainland, and that’s so helpful because even though we should all be doing our research, lists like these make it easier for us to support Black-owned.
Fun fact: Both she and Dr. Nagra were both featured in a Globe and Mail article this year about living plant-based.
Orders are typically picked up or delivered on Saturdays, so place yours by 9pm PT Wednesday. They also cater and sell products and gifts.
5. The Cider House
If you don’t know, now you know. If we weren’t in a pandemic year, I’m pretty sure we’d all have been more than familiar with The Cider House, conveniently located steps from Kitsilano beach. Perhaps you’ve tried their cider, but did you know that their entire food menu is plant-based? I don’t often see plant-based business owners or staff frequent the vegan/plant-based Facebook groups I’m in, but Manager Nikki Chohan is one of those people always spreading the plant-based love…and they never ever push the cider, even though I’m sure it’s great too.
Although there have been plant-based options for pets for a while, Virchew is the first brand for dogs to be veterinarian-endorsed. I’ve never owned a dog and don’t claim to be an expert, but I know that the dried food is pretty much processed crap and most pet owners who actually care about nutrition wouldn’t dare feed that to their beloved family members. You wouldn’t feed your kids cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, right? Virchew’s food comes dehydrated or air-dried, so you mix it with water so it aids in your dog’s digestion and kidney health.
Virchew launched to customers in the Vancouver area last fall, and if you haven’t gotten your hands on samples yet, head below to get yours! You’ll also find translated (as best humans can) testimonies from the dogs who’ve tried them!
If 2019 was all about vegan donuts, 2020 launched the vegan filled cookie. Both Dough & Co (whose photo I used in the header above) and Panela Lemon came on the scene this year, and although I haven’t tried the latter yet, it’s on my list (2021 priorities!).
I find the filled cookie super rich and delectable, so definitely something I prefer to share rather than keep for myself…although I wouldn’t blame you if you want to hoard these!
Did I miss any Vancouver brands that you’d give massive love to? Share with us in the comments.