By Danny Schrafel
Meet Annabelle, the inspiration for a new Northport-based startup called Sweet Annabelle’s that specializes in vegan ice cream.
She’s the resident cow who lives her days at the Lewis-Oliver Farm, a historic, 100-year-old dairy farm on Burt Avenue in Northport. The Town of Huntington and Northport Village co-own and maintain the parcel, where Annabelle and a veritable menagerie of furry, feathered, hoof-bearing and web-footed critters live on the farm.
There, she and her BFF, Big the goat, spend their days grazing, lazing and playing on the farm. The place has become something of a sanctuary for the popular creatures, and that’s hardly a common circumstance for livestock like them.
“Like all farmed animals including those whose faces we never see, and whose lives and suffering we give little thought to, Annabelle and her friends are sentient beings worthy of our compassion,” Sweet Annabelle’s mission statement reads. “Yet sadly, particularly in today's cruelly devised factory farm system, millions upon millions of animals are forced to endure short, miserable lives punctuated with immense pain and suffering.”
For volunteers at the farm, the menagerie that calls the farm home has become more than just livestock. Sweet Annabelle’s – and turning the public onto vegan, cruelty-free food – is a statement of love for them.
“They’ve become so near and dear to all of us,” farm volunteer Lynn Ruvolo, who launched the business with another top volunteer, Lorene Ericksen, said. “We’re almost doing it in their honor.”
That manifested in Sweet Annabelle’s vegan ice cream. Coconut-milk-based ice cream cakes range from $10 for cakes that serve three to $45 for 12-15 people. Initial impressions have been off the charts, Ruvolo said – from vegans like Ericksen and non-vegans like Ruvolo alike.
While Sweet Annabelle’s is starting out all vegan, other businesses specializing in vegan fare started small, but grew their client base from a solid foundation.
Up the road from Lewis-Oliver Farm, Northport’s Purple Elephant restaurant at the Britannia boatyard specializes in gourmet vegan fare, and those shoppers help sustain the 4-year-old shop, which started as a market/café and evolved to a sit-down restaurant a year ago.
Initially, chef/owner David Intonato started with a smaller selection of vegan offerings intermingled with organic, antibiotic and hormone-free non-vegan selections. Staring out with a heavy vegan influence was not feasible businesswise in Northport, but as word got out about The Purple Elephant’s prowess, demand and variety grew. Now, he said more than half of their sales are of vegan products, and there are dedicated vegan and non-vegan menus.
“It works for everybody because they [our guests] have groups of mixed people,” he said.
In the heart of Huntington village, Steve Edlin, owner of Capitol Health on New York Avenue for more than three decades, agreed that demand for vegan products of all sorts is growing. He does a small trade in products like alternative milk, dairy products and meats, as well as protein bars and shakes that become vegan-friendly by omitting animal byproducts.
As demand grows, so too does innovation – innovation which is now reaching store shelves.
“People don’t think about it, but most capsules are in a gelatin capsule,” Edlin said; gelatin is made of collagen through various animal byproducts. “What you’re beginning to see is more and more products being put in a vegetable capsule… In particular, now you’re even beginning to see it in liquid gel caps, which, for many, many years, there was nothing they could do.”
While vegan products have been around for a long time, Edlin said they’ve started coming into their own in recent years.
“We are definitely seeing some that there is more growth as far as people looking for products and products being available for them,” he said Sunday.