January 15, 2021 BOSTON, Mass. – According to the National Library of Medicine, it is estimated that 65% of the human population cannot tolerate lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products, with more than 50 million people claiming some form of lactose intolerance in the United States. With such a huge portion of the population impacted, February has been dubbed Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month, a time to educate and spread the word about the condition that is experienced by many but understood by few.
Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of a natural digestive enzyme called lactase, which breaks down lactose into digestible sugars. Without it, milk and dairy containing lactose can cause gastrointestinal distress. Fortunately, lactase enzyme can be added into dairy to break down the sugar before it is consumed, meaning that lactose intolerant people can have real milk and dairy products as long as they contain the natural enzyme. And while the stomach discomfort cause may not sound like something worth recognizing in the month of February, awareness of lactose intolerance and all the ways you can still enjoy real dairy indulgences, like ice cream, is something worth celebrating!
“There is a misconception that being lactose intolerant means you can’t have any milk or dairy products, but that’s not true,” said Hilary Walentuk, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian for New England Dairy. “Just because you’re lactose intolerant doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up your favorite dairy foods and the health benefits that come with them. There is a solution to meet most needs in the dairy aisle – from lactose-free milk to dairy foods that are typically easier to digest or already low in lactose. When you avoid dairy, you may be missing out on taste and enjoyment, as well as the many essential nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin D and protein, that are vital for health and overall wellbeing.”
For many, lactose-free products conjure thoughts of chalky pills and alternative “milks” that compromise on taste but there are some young food and beverage brands that are challenging this perception with products that feel and taste good with simple, natural ingredients. One of these brands is Beckon, a premium lactose-free ice cream company that refuses to sacrifice all the things that make ice cream, well...ice cream.
“You can’t have rich, creamy ice cream without the cream,” says Katy Flannery, co-founder of Beckon, who originally developed Beckon’s recipes for herself after being diagnosed with lactose intolerance and being disappointed with alternative options on the market. Flannery, who was a Registered nurse before starting Beckon with co-founder, Gwen Burlingame, knew there was a better way. “I wanted back-to-basics simple, real ingredients,” said Flannery, who also noted that many products she tried had long ingredient lists of gums and stabilizers that caused other digestive problems. Beckon uses classic ice cream ingredients – milk, cream, pure cane sugar, egg yolks – and adds the natural enzyme lactase to make their flavors lactose-free.
Beckon is partnering with other brands like Green Valley Organics, Slate, New England Dairy and other organizations for “Live Lactose Free”, a campaign to create awareness, community and support for lactose intolerance. Starting the week of February 15th, resources can be found on Beckon’s Instagram and website, followers can sign up to receive a digital goody bag and one lucky participant will win a collection of prizes from the partnering organizations. Another goal of the week is to remove the stigma associated with lactose intolerance.
“We know the term lactose intolerance isn’t the most fun phrase, but everyone knows someone who is lactose intolerant, if they aren’t themselves,” said Burlingame. “The goal of Lactose Intolerance Awareness is to recognize this fact and highlight all the ways people can enjoy life’s simple pleasures again!”
Beckon is the first premium lactose-free dairy ice cream on the market. One in four Americans suffer from lactose intolerance, plus the gums and additives used in dairy alternatives can often lead to similarly negative symptoms. Beckon maintains its creamy, indulgent taste and real, simple ingredients by keeping the dairy, then adds the natural lactase enzyme to make Beckon lactose-free. Unlike many ice creams on the market, Beckon does not use any gums, corn syrup, or artificial stabilizers. Beckon allows consumers to indulge and still feel good with a mission to make real, premium ice cream with a clean label available to the lactose intolerant and traditional ice cream lovers alike.
ABOUT NEW ENGLAND DAIRY:
New England Dairy is a non-profit education organization based in Boston that serves as the voice of dairy farmers in New England and Eastern New York. Staffed by registered dietitians and other professionals, New England Dairy champions New England dairy farm families and the nutritious foods they produce by connecting people to dairy farms, supporting youth wellness in schools, and delivering the latest nutrition and sustainability science to educators, health professionals, scientists, and media. New England Dairy is a state and regional affiliate of the National Dairy Council® (NDC).