LA ice cream shop Dear Bella Creamery was founded by Taiwanese-Americans Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei in 2017 to “offer a limitless approach to plant-based ice cream and other frozen treats” and quickly became a hit in Hollywood amongst vegans and non-vegans alike, recently revealing expansion plans beginning with a new location in Costa Mesa.
The best friend-founders recently announced that the entire line of plant-based ice cream, including flavors such as Mango Sticky Rice, Taiwanese Pineapple Cake, Sweet Red Bean, Passion Fruit Banana, and Matcha Soft Serve, is now available for US shipping nationwide as the business goes from strength to strength.
It was time to catch up with Alica and Belinda to discuss all things vegan ice cream.
Tell us about yourselves and why you founded Dear Bella Creamery
We opened Dear Bella Creamery in 2017 with the purpose of creating a product that brings joy and delight to people and a space that inspires connection. We first met through a vegan restaurant that we both worked at in Los Angeles, and quickly became best friends, bonding over our love for food.
“our ice cream is decadent, creamy, and exciting like dairy ice cream, but without any animal-derived ingredients.”
Alice, who manages the administration, marketing, and development of the business, is a CPA with decades of experience working with restaurants and retailers in accounting and finance. Belinda, who runs the store operations, is a Le Cordon Bleu graduate and has worked in numerous high-profile restaurants and eateries as Head Pastry Chef.
How are you changing people’s perspectives on plant-based ice cream?
What we hear over and over from our customers when they first try our ice cream is, “I cannot believe this is dairy-free/vegan/plant-based!” That is because our ice cream is decadent, creamy, and exciting like dairy ice cream, but without any animal-derived ingredients.
We are not trying to create a “healthier” alternative to dairy ice cream. Instead, we are creating something equally indulgent as the dairy original, while creating a new flavor experience with our chef-driven recipes. Our goal is to shift people’s perspective from seeing dairy-free ice cream as an inferior alternative to experiencing it as its own product with exciting and unique flavors and textures that are just as satisfying.
“Our goal is to shift people’s perspective from seeing dairy-free ice cream as an inferior alternative to experiencing it as its own product”
What makes your plant-based offerings so unique?
We meticulously create every flavor until we believe it’s perfect. Every flavor has to not only wow our palates, but tell a story. The birth of a flavor usually comes when Belinda and I are inspired to tell a story. For example, our Taiwanese Pineapple Cake was born when we wanted to celebrate Chinese New Year with something from our heritage.
After we brainstormed the flavor, Belinda starts bringing our idea to fruition. With her culinary background and my foodie tongue, we are highly critical of our products, which means that developing a flavor can take dozens of iterations. The end result is a high-quality and unique product that we are very proud of.
“We meticulously create every flavor until we believe it’s perfect. Every flavor has to not only wow our palates, but tell a story”
Tell us about the ingredients you use and your ice cream base.
We are committed to using only natural ingredients, which is actually much harder to execute than it sounds. The majority of the ingredients in the bulk trade are highly processed with lots of what we’d consider to be “bad” ingredients, such as artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and GMOs.
Sourcing all-natural ingredients is expensive and time-consuming, but it’s non-negotiable for us. The base of our ice cream is oatmilk, coconut milk, nut butters, and/or fruit, and we use unrefined cane sugar and tapioca syrup as the sweetener. From there, we source the actual ingredient which we are trying to highlight, so that is fresh pineapples for Taiwanese Pineapple Cake and one-ingredient peanut butter for Peanut Butter Cup.
How has your business grown over the last 5 years since opening in 2017?
Dear Bella has evolved tremendously since we opened 5 years ago in terms of our experiences as owners and operators. We have become more confident and outspoken since we started. This translates into better systems, better morale, and better products. Instead of just trying to survive, we can now focus on connecting with our community, creating a great work environment, and developing more cutting edge products.
What have been some of the challenges and solutions of scaling a business nationally?
It is indisputable that shipping frozen products is expensive and specialized. Since deciding to ship our ice cream nationally, we have encountered so many challenges like finding affordable shipping costs. Shipping a 20 pound frozen package with UPS 2nd Day Air typically costs about $200. To bring that cost down, we are working with a company that aggregates shipping for numerous companies to get discounted shipping rates from UPS.
In addition to shipping costs, there is the cost of custom shipping boxes, insulated liners, and dry ice, all of which are expensive and difficult to procure. We hope that by offering our products nationally, we will be able to reach more people that can enjoy our unique plant-based ice cream.
Why is it important to have AAPI flavors available?
Being both first-generation Taiwanese Americans, we feel that we must seize the opportunity of having our own space to bring more light onto our culture. We have the perfect, non-threatening vehicle to create awareness, and we hope that even something as small as tasting the flavors of another culture can create more awareness and start to shrink the gap between the familiar and the unfamiliar. We love our culture, and we love sharing it through our food.
What’s next for you?
We are in the midst of opening our second location in Costa Mesa this summer! Our long term vision is to create more space for connectivity and delight by opening more stores in the country.
Ice cream enthusiasts living anywhere in the USA can order Dear Bella ice creams here: https://www.dearbellacreamery.com/online-shop/national-shipping