Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or 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.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lactaid's 25th (and 35th) Anniversaries

When I first learned I was lactose intolerant, in 1978, I had never heard the words before. Didn't know what lactose was. Milk, well, milk was supposed to sooth the stomach. The concept made no sense.

No books were available on lactose intolerance. Almost no articles could be dug up at the library. No web, of course. I poked here and there, doing my own research.

Who doesn't know about lactose intolerance (LI) today? The phrase is a standing joke. Just mention milk and somebody will throw out a reference to LI. People think they're LI even if they're not. Consume any dairy product, suffer any digestive complaint? Boom, you're LI. See lactones on a label? Lactylates? Lactates? Lactic acid? Lactacystin? Must cause lactose intolerance. Not one of them contain any lactose, and not one of them would have been noticeable or comprehensible on a label in 1978, but today the connection is automatic. Amazing.

There were no specialty foods aimed at the lactose intolerant in 1978. What few diary alternatives existed were created for the kosher market, as a way to get around the prohibition of eating milk with meat. Today, the corner supermarket will have shelves full of milk-alternatives of all types, varieties, and bases. Some are from international food conglomerates; many are made by small firms struggling to find a niche for their products.

That's one major reason I maintain this blog, to help readers find the complete range of products and services available if you want to reduce or eliminate dairy in your life. I'm constantly passing along press releases about new foods, new companies, new cookbooks, new ways of dealing with the issue.

And by concentrating on the new, I suddenly realized how little attention I've given to the one constant in the LI world, the one that made lactose intolerance as well known as it's become, the one that everybody knows so well it's become almost the generic word. Lactaid.

I have in front of me a copy of a January 1984 news clipping announcing the introduction of LactAid brand lactose-reduced milk to Rochester. Yes, with a capital "A" in the middle. LactAid wasn't new even then. It had been introduced late in 1979. (Four years to get to Rochester. You'd think LactAid was high fashion.) New to Rochester meant new to me. No web, remember.

A quart of LactAid cost 89 cents in Wegman's then, which made it "roughly 20 to 30 cents higher than regular milk." In today's shopping trip I checked current prices. Fat-free regular milk cost 76 cents. Fat-free Lactaid was up to $2.19. We're still very much a niche market, and we continue to pay that price.

LactAid the firm had been around for a decade by then, although I didn't know that either. It's first product was a lactase powder that could be mixed with milk to remove most of the lactase. Alan Kligerman, the inventor of Sugar-Lo, an ice cream for diabetics and later Beano, introduced Lact-Aid powder in 1974, making this year Lactaid's 35th anniversary. Lactaid finally got its lactase pills on shelves in 1985.

In 1990 Dairy Ease, made by a division of a pharmaceutical giant, emerged as a competitor with its own line of milk and lactase. That energized Lactaid, which had been taken over by McNeil Consumer Products, a subsidiary of the equally gigantic Johnson & Johnson corporation. The two companies staged massive competing promotional campaigns in 1993. They have to be among the most successful ad campaigns in history. Lactose intolerance became a household word.

Lactaid eventually won out over Dairy Ease, which no longer makes lactase and whose milk is distributed by Land O'Lakes but is much harder to find. In fact, Lactaid has no real competitors in the LI market. It just keeps rolling along. While I've mentioned Lactaid products and promotions a few times in this blog, there's never been a reason for me to do a big intro to the firm. But anniversaries count, even if they're only meaningful to me.

The company's website,, unfortunately requires Adobe Flash Player to see all the contents, an annoyance that is increasingly common and worthwhile only to the graphics types in the marketing department, not actual consumers.

The products are only accessible through a lot of mousing and clicking, so I'll summarize them here:

Milk: fat free, low fat (1%), reduced fat (2%), whole, chocolate low fat (1%); all except the chocolate also available calcium-fortified
Organic Milk: fat free, reduced fat (2%)
Dietary Supplements [lactase]: original, fast act caplets, fast act chewables
Ice cream: chocolate, vanilla, cookies & cream, strawberries & cream, butter pecan
Cottage Cheese: low fat
Eggnog: Christmas holiday season availability only
Evaporated Milk: available only in Puerto Rico

None of the products are truly national. The Fast Act lactase is available in the largest number of states, but many of the products can be found in fewer than a half dozen.

That's too bad, but at least the lactase caplets and chewables are available online from anywhere in the country from such dealers as Amazon.

So happy 35th anniversary, Lactaid. Hope you stick around for another 35 years.

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