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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Malta Gets Lactose-Free Ice Cream. Why Not Us?

Americans, if they think of Nestlé at all, might have an image of chocolate bars and other comfort foods. In fact Nestlé S.A. is an insanely huge multi-national conglomerate based in Switzerland, whose products and activities span the globe. The U.S. market sees only a tiny fraction of the brands it makes internationally.

For some people that's a good thing. According to the British newspaper the Guardian Nestlé is one of the most boycotted brands in the world. A boycott has been fitfully instituted against the company since the 1970s because of the way it markets milk-based baby formulas to poor mothers in third-world countries. The vast majority of those mothers would be likely to have healthier children if their breastfed their babies.

Can you put the two sides of the company together? In reality, we do every day. Few of us notice which multinational conglomerate is the ultimate source of the products we fill our shopping carts with. Few of us can keep accounts of the pluses and minuses of their activities in 200 countries or follow the accusations made by activist groups supported or disabused by the business press. Doing so for every one of the tens of thousands of products in a supermarket would drive us all even nuttier than we are today. The modern world and capitalism depend on it being too large for any individual to comprehend.

I'm driven to these thoughts by, of all things, a press release that a newspaper on the island nation of Malta printed as a news article.

Ice creams for coeliacs and lactose intolerant consumers

Coeliacs and lactose intolerant consumers can this year enjoy a wide range of Nestlé ice creams which have been produced to address the needs of such conditions.

The Nestlé gluten-free ice creams, which include the Hello Kitty cup and stick, Indiana Jones cup, Nesquik sandwich and stick and Cremeria Fior di Latte and Lemon Sorbet are the result of specific manufacturing processes studied down to the finest detail, right from the selection of ingredients until the manufacturing stage. Nestlé continues to monitor its processes in all the packing stages, in order to ensure the utmost compliance with the standards that have enabled the company to attain the cross grain symbol. The symbol, which is printed on the product, indicates the product’s safety and guarantees no gluten presence in the product.

The lactose-free range of ice-creams, which include the Cremeria chocolate and vanilla tubs are produced with the same specific manufacturing processes but address the needs of consumers who usually, due to this condition, do not take any milk based ice cream. Although these ice creams have a very low lactose content of 0.4 per cent they still enjoy a genuine flavour and are made with only fresh Italian skimmed milk which is highly digestible.

The gluten-free and the lactose-free ice creams are available in all supermarkets and leading stores throughout Malta and Gozo.

The Republic of Malta, which includes the islands of Malta and Gozo, is home to fewer than half a million people, smaller than the county in which I live.

Yet the Maltese people will have access to a range of lactose-free and gluten-free ice creams greater than everything sold in the United States by all companies combined.

I can't comprehend this. I'm happy for the Maltese, obviously. I don't want to take away their good fortune at the expense of ours. Perhaps they're being used as nothing more than a living test market. These products are apparently available nowhere else in the world. Perhaps these treats, if well accepted, will one day sit on freezer shelves on every continent. (Antarctica excepted, to be sure.) In the meantime what explanation can be given for the fact that the millions of American consumers lack these basics?


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Amélie said...

I live in Montreal, and here, Chapman's sells dairy but lactose-free ice cream. There's vanilla, of course, but also other flavors like maple-walnut or neopolitan (and a caramel one, if I remember correctly). I don't know about the gluten content, though. There are also lactose-free fudge bars. Not all the grocery stores carry these products, unfortunately, and it is still near impossible to see all those kinds of lactose-free ice cream available at the same time, but... You mean to say that's not available in the States?

Anonymous said...

Nice Post
Steven Spurrier

Steve Carper said...

Amélie, there are a few plain lactose-free ice creams in the U.S., but nobody sells anything in what the industry calls the "frozen treats" segment. It's truly astounding how small the lactose-free product lines are here.