Guest interview: Krisanga Cowen of Vivapura! »
I have a history of awesome vegan roommates (see: Vegan Myths Debunked creators Jonathan and Ivory). My new roommate here in Patagonia, Ariz. is the awesome Krisanga Cowen. Krisanga (far right) took a break from grinding sprouted raw nut butters and making coconuts delicious to tell Vegansaurus readers about how much he loves promoting a health-conscious, plant-based lifestyle through Vivapura, the vegan superfoods company he co-owns here in Patagonia. Here’s the skinny on this fit and loving veg guy and his approach to incorporating superfoods in a plant-source diet! Hope you enjoy!
Vegansaurus: How did you get into veganism?
Krisanga Cowen: My best friend since kindergarten Todd got me into the Smiths. At 16, we dyed our hair blonde to look like Morrissey and kind of idolized him. In 1985 Smiths came out with “Meat is Murder.” That song opened our eyes to what actually goes on in this country and factory farming and how animals are mutilated. We went vegan overnight. Later, I read John Robbins’ Diet For a New America, and I actually went to vegan restaurants, which I’d never done before. I studied with yogini Kali Ray for seven years on and off, taking classes [and] workshops, [being] among other teachers, and really admired her way of eating plant-source-only, mostly live, all-organic foods for health and yoga.
How did your previous business, Cocopura, which sold only coconut products, become Vivapura, which sells an extensive line of superfoods?
I had one product in four different sizes: coconut oil. My quest for developing more products was moving to Patagonia in 2007, renting a 6,000-square-foot warehouse. I met Chris Whitcoe, and he and I were both master’s students. I had connections for superfoods. I had just built a commercial kitchen for coconut products and I started selling gogi berries and Incan berries and nori sheets and Monukka raisins, basically out the back door. I mainly sold to guests and people working at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. That’s how Vivapura was born.
When did Vivapura officially take off?
We formed Vivapura in September 2008, and got into Whole Foods and other stores in 2010, in addition to our online and in-store sales. The idea behind Vivapura was to create raw vegan products that haven’t been seen or available on the marketplace—unique, hand-crafted products like coconut crème that’s stone-ground, our chaparrel coconut oil, our soaked and dehydrated nut butters…. Sourcing products that are heirloom varieties that are unique to different regions of the world. Styrian pumpkin seeds are only grown in Austria in that region, and heirloom variety of pumpkin seeds that are robust and GMO-free and high in zinc and protein and chlorophyll. Our products were designed to be eco-friendly, vegan, non-GMO, and delicious. We hope Vegansaurus readers will enjoy them!
Is most of the Vivapura team vegan or vegetarian?
We support local people and give them a voice inside our company…we open a space for people to transform. A lot of people become vegetarian or vegan after working with us; we accept the mainstreamers and teach them about gogi berries and how to eat vegan and feel great on superfoods. We expose people to ways not to need processed foods, in a healthy, supportive environment where your voice matters and is taken into account for decisions the company makes. That really impacts an individual. They shift, grow, expand and become more open and expressive. Naturally, that often leads to vegetarianism or veganism.