The Lactose Intolerance Clearinghouse Has Moved.

My old website can be found at www.stevecarper.com/li I am no longer updating the site, so there will be dead links. The static information provided by me is still sound.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on Smashwords.com or Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com or a whole lot of other places that Smashwords is suppose to distribute the book to. Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

I suffer the universal malady of spam and adbots, so I moderate comments here. That may mean you'll see a long lag before I remember to check the site and approve them. Despite the gap, you'll always get your say. I read every single one, and every legitimate one gets posted.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

'Ntolerance Allergy Free Store


'Ntolerance. Not a typo. A pun. It's a store that sells allergy free foods. As usual it was started and is still run today by people who have a personal connection to allergies. Sue and Mark Egbers founded the store in 2004 after discovering that their son Matthew had coeliac disease. It was taken over by Heather Faulkner, herself a coeliac, in 2008.

What I found really cool about the place - and the reason I'm talking about it here when I don't mention the dozens of other local shops that sell allergy-free foods - is the location. Pukekohe. That's in South Auckland. Which is in New Zealand.

I ran across the shop in an article by Virin Gomber on the Auckland Business to Business website. It caught my eye. I used to write similar profiles of local stores and companies for a paper called Business to Business Newsletter. I'd take off during my lunch hour at work, do a 45 minute interview, and write it out at home.

I'd never heard of a store that sold only allergy-free foods back then in the 1980s. I don't think Rochester has such a store today, although it has a couple of gluten-free bakeries. These specialty stores find it difficult to compete against large organic and natural food stores that carry a wider range of products as well as supermarkets that have huge natural food sections of their own.

Even so, most larger American cities, not to mention college towns that are smaller but have a targeted and interested population, have specialty free-from food stores today.

New Zealand does too, but 'Ntolerance is the only store that sells nothing but allergy free products that I can find. (Apologies if I missed any, but I count on your writing in and correcting me.) It's a tough business. In fact, the Egbers, who had started the store in an industrial area - presumably because costs and rents are typically much lower there - were planning to shut the store down. Faulkner moved the store to a site that had better visibility and higher foot traffic. It worked.

Managing the business on her own at the age of 55 - looking after the supplies, sales, customers’ needs, working six days a week and taking care of her own health condition – she has done exceptionally well breaking even just one year into this business. And she has achieved it even while increasing the product range at the shop.

The website also has changed to better suit customers' needs.
The range of products sold at the shop includes gluten free, dairy free, nut free, egg free, soy free and sugar free foods. Besides retail sales, customers can even order online and get the items couriered to them. The products on the website have colour codes underneath them to make identification easier, to denote suitability for different allergies / intolerances.

These specialty businesses aimed at us, our small slice of the market, can survive only if we patronize them rather than their competitors. Faulkner's success seems to be well deserved for her hard work. Yesterday I wrote about the similar Dairy Free Market, a new online site that is wading into the same waters.

Find these stores. Test them out. See how well they meet your needs. Tell them what you'd like and where they need to improve. The better they are, the longer they'll last and the more satisfaction you'll get from them. And that will help all of us.

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