When Minus the Moo co-founder Katy Flannery was a child, her family often ate ice cream together. As Flannery got older, however, she realized that the ice cream she loved so much was making her feel sick. She had to face the fact that she was lactose intolerant.
According to Gwen Burlingame, its other co-founder, Flannery searched for ice cream alternatives, including sorbet, as well as ice creams made with coconut, soy, or almond milk. Flannery not only found these alternatives unsatisfying, but also frustrating— her friends still preferred traditional cow’s milk ice cream, leaving her no one to share her indulgence with.
While working as a nurse in Boston, Flannery spent her days off experimenting with creating lactose-free ice cream made from real dairy. Burlingame explained that, Flannery used her personal ice cream maker in her home to craft recipes using the lactase enzyme, combining her health-science training with her culinary interests. This process lasted a few years until Flannery attended the Ice Cream Short Course at Penn State University, whose alumni also include the famous Ben and Jerry.
“Finally, Katy had an ice cream that friends and family were willing to enjoy with her,” Burlingame said. “No one had to compromise.”
Flannery and Burlingame began their business out of Commonwealth Kitchen in Dorchester. This incubator kitchen allowed the two partners to experiment with new flavors and recipes. Although the two first considered launching Minus the Moo in New York City, they realized that Boston is an ideal location for startups due to its depth of resources. Flannery, who describes Boston as the land of “American innovation,” decided to trust that the city would support her new business venture.
Burlingame described the startup process, one characterized by passion and difficulty, as an “emotional rollercoaster” and a “day-to-day learning curve.” But Burlingame credits Boston’s startup network to giving her and Flannery advice and encouragement in their endeavor.
Burlingame and Flannery tested their ice cream at SOWA Market in Boston’s South End during the summer of 2015. By April of 2016, they had successfully launched their products in stores. Since then, the company has grown into 23 points of distribution both in and around Boston, including the Whole Foods in Newton. The team also won the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream National Pitch Room Competition, and received $10,000.
“The mission of Minus the Moo is really to change the mindset about a lactose-free diet and provide lactose-intolerant consumers the same great tasting ice cream they might remember as a kid or wish they could have,” Burlingame said.
With such a unique product, Burlingame explains that Minus the Moo’s hopes to not only attract lactose intolerant ice cream lovers, but also their friends and family
“Because [the ice cream] match[es] the taste and texture of traditional, high quality ice cream, those tolerant and intolerant of lactose can enjoy it together,” Burlingame said.
Grace Jarmoc, MCAS ’18, enjoys a bowl of ice cream once or twice a week during the summer, but sometimes feels that it upsets her stomach. Although not diagnosed as lactose intolerant, she does feel the adverse effects of it. As a result, she often shies away from it.
Jarmoc is interested in finding an ice cream alternative so that she can enjoy the ice cream she loves, without feeling sick afterwards. Jarmoc noted that if she could enjoy the same lactose free ice cream as her lactose tolerant friends, she would be more inclined to eat it.
“I would be very interested to try it and see what it’s all about,” she said. “It would be nice to have an ice cream option that tastes great but also does not upset my stomach.”
Currently, Minus the Moo is available at 13 Whole Foods Markets, as well as Amazon Fresh. Minus the Moo currently offers five flavors: vanilla, chocolate, espresso, mint chip, and sea salt chocolate chip, which was discovered accidentally from the use of salted butter, but has become the company’s most popular flavor.
In accordance with the company’s mission of bringing lactose tolerant and intolerant friends together through ice cream, they plan to expand to the rest of New England by the end of this year, and eventually reach the national markets.
“We hope to grow nationally to reach more lactose intolerant consumers and their families,” Burlingame said.
Featured Image Courtesy of Minus the Moo