Written by A Wild Dove | Photographed by Caitlin Mitchell
To go from fashion to plant based ice cream is a career 180, to say the least, but that’s exactly what Carli Blum did. As a wardrobe stylist working with brands like Target and Bloomingdales, Carli describes herself as a visual person who loved engaging with different colors and textures. After moving to New York from Los Angeles in 2013, she met former Lucky editor Brandon Holley and together, they launched an app called Everywear with the goal of bringing editorial expertise into the closets of everyday women. But she discovered a desire to dig a little deeper into her career path. “I knew there was a problem when I wanted to talk more about diet than a blazer,” says Carli, who has serious food allergies to soy, dairy, nuts, bananas and gluten. She soon realized she wanted to somehow combine her love of fashion and color with healthy, delicious dessert. So she created Kokus, a new category of ice cream made from cultured coconut cream featuring add-ons like Spiced Turmeric Honey, Bee Pollen, Chocolate Chia Seeds and Coconut Chips - all designed to support and detox the body, boost the immune system and restore balance. Koku has been such a huge hit with the allergy and non-allergy community, so we had to sit down with Carli to chat coconuts, the magical gut and her goal of going global with this all natural, delicious dessert.
Full disclosure. We are obsessed with Koku. It is so ridiculously delicious. What is the philosophy or mission behind the brand?
Our product solves a big problem in the food industry today - the lack of allergen-friendly products that are truly comprised of healthful, high quality ingredients. The ingredients are: organic, clean, vibrant and functional. You should feel energized and not lethargic after you eat. We truly believe that or product has healing magic and is better for you and better for our planet.
What was your trigger moment in launching Koku?
I’m a believer that you need to pay close attention to what “lights you up inside” and that is aligned with your soul's purpose. I would get a little too enthusiastic over something I was able to eat. It was as simple as coconut milk on a menu, or a gluten free pancake! I knew it was time to leave fashion and start my own business in a “better for you” food space. I’m obsessed with coconuts, they are so magical to me. Because I’m on a constant mission to heal my gut and allergies, I fell in love with the idea of cultured coconut cream. That lead to frozen coconut cream with vibrant, functional superfood toppings. I married my creative fashion background with my true love and passion for healing food and BAM. Koku was born.
That really comes through. Can you speak to the ingredients and what was the process was in determining what should go in?
Koku’s base has eight or less superfood ingredients, including 100 % organic cultured coconut cream, coconut oil, coconut water, organic guar gum and raw honey. Our cultured coconut cream is done through a cold fresh-pressed process. We use small batches of base cream that are immediately cultured to perfection with specific time and temperature parameters. Another unique element is the raw honey. Our raw honey is never processed, heated, pasteurized or processed. I truly believe the gut is the seat to all health and by culturing our coconut cream, we are playing a part to help everyone live their most optimal lives!
Totally! So what are the benefits to these ingredients?
Every ingredient is important and has a specific function. Due to its raw nature, it has many naturally occurring probiotics. This helps replenish bacteria in your digestion tract to regain and maintain positive probiotic balance of good bacteria over bad bacteria. The raw honey contains vitamins, enzymes, powerful antioxidants. Our product is hydrating, energizing, nutritious and DELICIOUS!
What makes Koku unique in the all natural dessert space, or unique as a brand?
We are the first 100% organic, cultured coconut cream soft serve. We are always organic, dairy , soy, nut, gluten and refined sugar free. We are working hard on our product to make sure it always has less than 12g of sugar per serving. I put my heart and soul into this product and will always lead with a strong product that has innovative ingredients, branding and marketing.
Why do you think a brand like Koku is so important right now?
Since launching in August, I have been truly blown away by the response. I get tons of messages from people who similar to me have autoimmune disorders, digestive disorders, allergies, chromes, lymes etc. People struggle with finding products that are clean labeled, transparent and simply that they can enjoy without feeling sick. I believe we are moving into a ‘better for you’, plant based direction and Koku is helping to solve these problems.
Love that. Where is the name from?
Koku means coconut in Hebrew! My homeland :)
What's next for Koku?
We had a very exciting summer. We really launched with a “proof of concept” intention and now know without a doubt, people are looking for a product like these. We are now right back to work, and aiming to launch our first experiential brick+mortar concept in spring 2018 in NYC. We are also working on a CPG product which is very exciting. The day I see Koku on the shelves of Wholefoods I will probably be crying uncontrollably with gratitude.
We can’t wait for that moment. What is your therapy?
Watercolor painting while listening to Trevor Hall. I’m in my head a lot and watercolor painting helps me to completely escape.
Oooh. We must try that! Lastly, what makes you fly?
Besides tequila? Connecting with people to help them find their passion and purpose. And surrounding myself with people who make me laugh.