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California and the West

Here's the scoop on goat milk

Unusual ice cream wins taste awards and converts. Demand is growing for the product.

February 15, 2007|From the Associated Press

PETALUMA, CALIF. — Got goat's milk? Northern California ice cream maker Laura Howard does and she's using it to turn out a product that's anything but plain vanilla.

Howard's goat-milk frozen treats are winning shelf space in upscale grocery freezers across the country. And here's the kicker: They don't taste of goat.

"Some people see goats' milk ice cream and they sort of wrinkle their nose," said Howard, who traded Hollywood for the country charms of Petaluma to start her Laloo's Goat's Milk Ice Cream Co. "After they try it, it's a different story."

She says Laloo's tastes like premium ice cream -- it's a myth that goat milk has to carry the smoky tang that conjures up visions of Heidi in her grandpa's hut. Milk flavor is mostly the result of what the goats eat and how they're managed.

Goat milk has been drunk all over the world for centuries. But it's only relatively recently, with the success of high-end goat cheeses, that Americans have taken an interest in the other white milk.

These days, goat has gone gourmet with products including milk, yogurt and even soap becoming more widely available.

"There has been a huge increase in demand," said Scott Bice, farm manager for his family's Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery in Sebastopol, Calif.

Laloo's (Howard's childhood nickname) began in 2004, with Howard selling at farmers' markets.

Laloo's -- which comes in flavors including Vanilla Snowflake and Chocolate Cabernet -- started winning taste awards. Then it was picked up by Whole Foods Market Inc. after the chain's national grocery buyer Perry Abbenante tried a sample.

Abbenante wasn't expecting too much because of the price. At about $6.99 a pint, Laloo's costs quite a bit more than other premium products.

But Laloo's did better than expected and has since expanded to most Whole Foods Markets around the country as well as some other upscale grocers -- "pretty good for a small company selling goat milk ice cream," Abbenante said. "It's unique and it's something that's growing."

Howard gets her milk from a Petaluma farm and makes batches once a week, slow-cooking the milk to mellow out the flavor and arrive at the right level of creaminess.

She sold about 20,000 pints last year, about double the year before and is on track to double again this year. Howard is looking into setting up satellite operations in other parts of the country.

Laloo's is low fat, so much so that it technically is "reduced-fat ice cream," being below the 10% milk fat that defines "ice cream" by government standards.

To Howard, the most important thing about her product is the taste.

"It wouldn't probably find a wide audience if it didn't taste really good," she said.

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