As it says on the Beckon Ice Cream website, it all started with Katy Flannery’s lactose intolerance and Gwen Burlingame’s sympathetic sweet tooth. Together they launched Minus the Moo, the first premium lactose-free, dairy-full ice cream that they just recently rebranded (July 2018) as Beckon – as in, “better ice cream beckoned”. They wanted to offer the flavor, texture and experience of traditional dairy ice cream, but not go the alternative dairy (soy, almond milk, coconut milk etc.) route. Cow’s milk has so much to offer. Why not an ice cream made with dairy, but lactose-free? Why not, indeed?
We could not be more thrilled for this start-up’s success. We first met Katy and Gwen in 2017 at the NYC Fancy Food Show and were immediately struck by the high quality of their ice cream. That said, food start-ups come and go – even when they have a stellar product. It is very competitive out there and while we wished them luck, we had no idea if they would flourish.
Beckon Ice Cream Arrives
Well, this year at the same show we came across their booth with their re-branded ice cream and they were busy educating about their brand and handing out samples! This is a product any ice cream lover can get behind – whether you are lactose-free or not! Buy it for the whole family. With 5 flavors right now and more coming, this is the ice cream you want for the summer – or anytime you have a hankering. Choose from Vanilla, Mint Chip, Sea Salt Chocolate Chip, Espresso and Chocolate.
Let us introduce you to Katy and Gwen and Beckon Ice Cream.
Dédé Wilson: Hello Ladies! It was so great to see you at the show and we couldn’t finish our convo because so many people were vying for your attention. That’s a nice position to be in! For those that are new to Beckon, tell us briefly about how this all started and also can you talk a little bit about why you wanted to use real dairy milk and not alt dairies?
Katy: I grew up loving ice cream but was diagnosed with lactose intolerance as a teenager. I started experimenting with alternative ice creams like soy, almond and coconut but they just didn’t taste the same. None matched the taste and texture of the real dairy ice cream I had as a kid and many were chock full of gums or additives to try to replicate the consistency. Those ingredients often led to further digestive issues and, as a pediatric nurse, I knew there was a way to have the real deal, lactose free. So, I took to my kitchen to make it myself!
So many people still have confusion around lactose-free vs. dairy free. You have explained why you use dairy. Can you be explicit about how your Beckon Ice Cream is lactose-free?
Gwen: Instead of settling for an alternative, we use real dairy from family farms in the Northeast. We add the lactase enzyme, which is the natural enzyme your body needs to digest lactose. This enzyme breaks down the lactose, making it completely lactose free. We get every batch tested to ensure it’s safe for our customers.
Wow, testing every batch? That is such great assurance! Please talk to us about the type of milk you use. We know you are based in Boston, MA. People are always interested in associations with local farmers and also whether milk is rBST hormone free.
Katy: We source our milk and cream from a 100% farmer-owned co-op in the Northeast. All our dairy is rBST hormone free.
Love it!That was so smart of you as it is more and more important to the educated consumer. Also we are thrilled that your ingredient list is so short and clean. How did you manage that?
Gwen: Keeping a clean label is very important to us. We use real ingredients so we don’t have to add extras to compensate. In addition to our thoughtfully sourced dairy, we use egg yolks as a French custard style ice cream and sweeten with non-GMO pure cane sugar. In addition to our simple flavors, we add the lactase enzyme so our ice cream can be enjoyed by more people.
There is a lot of confusion around sugars and the low FODMAP diet, but cane sugar is low FODMAP. Also, the low FODMAP diet is lactose-free, but not dairy-free, so your product fits perfectly into our lifestyle. Were you aware of the low FODMAP diet as you were developing the ice cream? We are so excited to have your ice cream that we can incorporate into our diet!
Katy: I was aware of the low FODMAP diet through my GI doctor and read all about it. However, I decided to use lactose free dairy instead of non-dairy alternatives also because of taste and texture. I really appreciate that the low FODMAP diet acknowledges that lactose is the true culprit and that you can still have dairy.
It is a nuance we try to point out again and again…
Katy: Dairy has so many wonderful health benefits – like vitamins, nutrients, protein, and calcium – and many people don’t know it’s an option if you’re lactose free. It’s great that the low FODMAP diet is bringing awareness to that fact.
Let’s talk a little bit about your start-up business experience. How about some highlights – and even some low-lights! Obviously, you have come out on top but it is always interesting to hear about the entrepreneur’s journey.
Gwen: Starting our company has been an adventure! After graduating college (where we met), we both went on to different career paths – Katy, as a pediatric ICU nurse in Boston, and me, as brand manager for a beauty company in NYC. Leaving our jobs and starting a food brand was a big change but our passion for good food and solving this problem for so many people has been the driving force.
Katy: We started out making the ice cream by hand in an incubator kitchen in Boston on the weekends and selling at a local farmers market. After that, we began selling more broadly to natural food stores like Whole Foods Market in New England. Last year, after launching in stores, we realized that our name Minus the Moo was leading people to believe our ice cream was dairy free. We changed it to Beckon because our mission is to call all ice cream lovers back to the real deal!
Ah, a perfect explanation of your new name! Now of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, how does it taste? I wrote an article titled, What Does Lactose-Free Milk Taste Like?, because so many people assume that products made with lactose-free milk are going to be odd or weird. They aren’t! Your ice cream is rich and luscious like other traditional premium ice creams. Tell folks what it means to be a “premium” ice cream and also how you develop your flavors. I think for most people the idea of creating ice cream flavors is a dream job!
Gwen: Our ice cream tastes just as good (or better) than traditional premium ice creams because we use all the same ingredients, including the milk and cream. Beckon is considered premium because of the high-quality dairy and low overrun, which is the amount of air incorporated into the ice cream. The lower the overrun, the more dense and delicious the ice cream! The lactase enzyme can make some products sweeter so we lowered the sugar just a bit but, other than that, it’s does nothing to affect the taste. The most distinctly different thing about our ice cream is that we do not use gums or other common stabilizers because they can be difficult for some people to digest. The result is fresh, clean tasting ice cream!
Other than eating your ice cream straight from the pint, tell us some of your favorite ways to use it.
Katy: We both love making milkshakes with lactose free milk, of course! It’s also great sandwiched between two cookies or on top of waffles.
I developed a lactose-free ice cream soda in honor of Beckon! Now some exciting news. Tell everyone where they can find your ice cream and also about your newly launched on-line ordering. Ours came perfectly packaged – even in the midst of a heat wave!
Gwen: You can find out which stores carry our ice cream and can now order your pint online from beckonicecream.com. We offer flat-rate shipping for $9.99 anywhere in the contiguous US. Your box of Beckon will come packaged in dry ice, straight to your doorstep!
(Editor’s Note: Check out the FREE SHIPPING DEAL for FODMAP Everyday® readers, below)
Katy: For now, we’re just focusing on the US but sky is the limit!
Thank you so much for developing this delicious product that we can all eat safely on our low FODMAP diet. Our ice cream came perfectly frozen and it was like unwrapping the best present! Tasty for sure and being low FODMAP we knew we could indulge without triggering our IBS. Thank you for your insight into this need!
Note: We received ice cream samples from the Beckon Ice Cream- but all opinions are our own.