African-American artisanal foods: Black fine food producers mix quality, community and commerce

Brooklyn Bell Foods & Co. was founded in 2011 by Ron and Kati Cunningham, a husband and wife team from the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. Firm believers in honest and healthy products, all their foods are minimally processed. Many of the primary ingredients they use are from their own handcrafted goods, such as nut butters and their Madagascar vanilla bean extract.

Their offerings? Gourmet ice cream sold under a line named “The Local,” with adult takes on childhood classics in enticing flavors such as Brown Sugar Whiskey Vanilla and Chocolate Love. The pair also offers Good Bars, which they refer to as “a tasty alternative to the cardboard granola bars found in big box stores.” These small batch oat bars are chock full of simple, natural ingredients, like almonds, raisins and cranberries — with no fillers, ever.

The couple, who each work full time (Ron in software development and Kati in law), share a vision of a company that can and does make a difference. “As a black-owned business, it is our charge to raise the visibility of other minority-owned businesses and support entrepreneurship in our community. Ron and I look forward to growing our company, and using it as a platform to teach minority youth the ins and outs of owning your own business,” Kati told theGrio. “We also believe in the ability and responsibility of small businesses to regrow the economy. For this reason, we make every effort to buy American, from large purchases such as our batch freezer to items such as containers and ice cream scoops. In the same vein, and with the environment in mind, we use ingredients that are locally made, and source our foods from local growers and providers as often as possible.”

The Cunninghams recently obtained a permit to sell their Good Bars, and a license is expected soon enabling them to market their ice creams. The plan is to have their products available in specialty stores and cafes throughout Brooklyn, eventually extending their reach to other locales. Be on the lookout for their brands at local markets and fairs.

“We love what we’re doing because we’re doing it together. Food connects all people, but that is especially true for our family,” Ron and Kati said. Yes, this is a family affair, as their two daughters, ages two and twenty-two, are official taste testers. “Brooklyn Bell is a natural extension of our family,” Kati confirmed.

“Through it, we have found expression for our values, ethics, and passion. Ultimately, we hope it will make the world a better place.  As we say on our website, Ice Cream Saves Country!”

For more information, go to www.brooklynbell.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Who else is trailblazing in black artisanal foods? You’ll be surprised at the creativity and savvy of one African-American Connecticut mom.