by Layne Lynch
Photography by Knoxy
Rooted deep in our culinary culture is a resounding sentiment that if something tastes lush, decadent and exquisite, it must be laden with calories, fat and highly processed ingredients.
And yet, despite the fact that our taste buds might attempt to convince us otherwise, Austin's NadaMoo! ice cream is actually a healthful indulgence.
Launched in 2004 by natural-foods entrepreneur Amy Ramm, this dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan ice cream enterprise is rapidly expanding its reach beyond the confines of its humble beginnings. The creamy coconut milk-based treat debuted in the cases of the Hyde Park juice bar Daily Juice, but can now be found throughout the frozen shelves of the Southwest, and will soon reach regions covering Mexico and Latin America. “I’ll be the first to admit, I was surprised when I tried NadaMoo! for the first time,” says CEO and President Daniel Nicholson. “It had such a great texture, and tasted better than any regular—let alone vegan—ice cream I had ever tried. Amy took one of the most unhealthy, fattening foods on the market and completely transformed it.”
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007, Nicholson completed an engineering internship in Madrid, Spain, then returned to Austin the following year to retire his engineering days and explore a new frontier: organic, all-natural desserts. “I had always been an entrepreneur at heart, and engineers are natural problem solvers and innovators, so I was just really looking for the right place for me,” he says. “When I discovered NadaMoo!, it just seemed like the right fit, the right vision, the right everything. From day one, I’ve believed in the vision of the company and what it can grow into.”
In 2011, Ramm exited the company she’d created in her home kitchen, leaving Nicholson to move forward with a renewed vision and direction for NadaMoo! Nicholson had only been with the business for three years as a financial controller, but he made the best of it—segueing into a central leadership position and growing the company to become an enviable edible entity gracing the chilled cases of Whole Foods Market, Central Market, H-E-B and countless other grocers across the country.
Nicholson cites his Hispanic roots and upbringing in Laredo, Texas, as the driving forces for growing his signature line of frozen deliciousness. “South Texas is one of the most obese regions in the United States, and that needs to change,” he says. “Diabetes runs rampant, and there is this feeling that people don’t care about taking care of themselves. The truth is, people need healthy products available in their stores, and it means a lot to me that NadaMoo! is now in my hometown.”
With fewer than 140 calories per half-cup serving, the USDA-certified organic treat relies on a simple flavor base consisting of silky coconut milk, smooth tapioca and sweet agave nectar. Once the signature base is whipped together, NadaMoo!’s production warehouse infuses the base with various flavor combinations that create their ever-diverse, ever-enticing family tree: Chocolate Almond Chip, Sweet Cherry Lime, Java Crunch, Gotta Do Chocolate, mmm…Maple Pecan, Lotta Mint Chip, Vanilla…ahh!, and Creamy Coconut.
These days, Nicholson has been spending his time sampling prototype flavors created by FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar Pastry Chef Erin Echternach—selecting among myriad organic, natural ingredients—and pursuing additional distribution areas. Two new flavors were approved in 2013—Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana and Vanilla Chai—and are scheduled to be released in early 2014. Echternach was hired to be an ice cream consultant after Nicholson discovered her impressive work. “The secret is to find flavors that complement the coconut base,” she says. “From there, we create any number of flavors—like Mexican Hot Chocolate, which is something I’d like to see us do in the future. We’re focusing on developing a solid line of flavors, and there’s definitely more to come.”
Having recently tapped Daniel Strong—Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream’s former vice president of sales—to join the company, both Nicholson and NadaMoo! are on the tipping point of a new chapter. And though he’s not quite sure what the coming years might look like, Nicholson says locals can look forward to even more pints, additional distribution areas and a potential brick-and-mortar ice cream shop. “Austin has become a hotbed for cool new concepts that challenge the expected,” he says. “NadaMoo! was born here, and we’re going to continue to honor its legacy as a local brand. It only makes sense for us to continue to grow here.”