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Time to Embrace the Lactose Intolerant


For all the R&D that’s gone into gluten-free foods, catering to some that science proves aren’t actually sensitive to anything, it’s time for restaurants and ice cream brands to embrace a hot new crowd everybody’s talking about: the lactose intolerants. From my very personal experience, I can tell you that we’re kinder than those gluten peeps, we’re asking nicely and have fun money to spend with whoever starts bringing dairy-free frozen treats to the mainstream.

I’m talking to you, Dairy Queen, Cold Stone, Sub Zero, et al. Research varies, but somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of the American population is lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy. My guess is the number is higher, given the number of people in my office, family and circle of friends who can’t eat dairy .

Having grown up in Wisconsin—the dairy state—swearing off ice cream, hard cheeses, cheese curds and more wasn’t just personally devastating, it’s also a social taboo. Of it all, giving up ice cream has been the hardest part, immediately curtailing my life-long Blizzard addiction.

On the milk front, even basic grocery stores now carry lactase milks that include the natural enzyme that helps our bodies digest lactose. So I’m covered on the cereal front, but my (honestly) significant milkshake, Blizzard, sundae and root beer float budget is just sitting in my checking account accumulating interest. Don’t you want a taste of that?

And pills aren’t good enough. I pop my fair share of lactase pills to ease the digest of things that contain butter, the occasional slice of cheese on a burger or sandwich and other random things that contain small amounts of lactose. Even so, they aren’t powerful enough to enable even a small ice cream cone. Trust me. 

Sorbets, frozen juices, smoothies or cashew-based “ice cream” won’t do, either. They are abominations. We lactose-free people want the hard stuff, the best non-dairy ice cream that modern American research can provide.

Many grocery stores now carry non-dairy ice creams, and some are decent. Others are terrible. For ice cream brands reading this and drawing up plans for their own dairy-free product lineup, let me direct you to Lactaid chocolate ice cream (a real home run) and Nada Moo!, which both sell some great ice cream alternatives. Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream is OK—good on texture, but it’s too salty and loses its magic after a pint or two.

There’s real money to be made in catering to the lactose-intolerant crowd. I’m starting with the low-hanging fruit: DQ, A&W and Cold Stone. After that, who knows where I’ll turn, but poutineries should hereby consider themselves on notice.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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