What's so unique about LeCarb? Well, for starters, the company uses ingredients and patent-pending process technology to replace or remove the majority of carbohydrates in the milk used to manufacture LeCarb products.

Last year at this time,Dairy Foodsmagazine honored SouthWest Foods, Tyler, Texas, for introducing LeCarb™, the first nationally distributed low-carbohydrate frozen dessert. This year, due to the product line's continuing overwhelming success, along with the fact that LeCarb has grown to include dairy drinks, cultured products and frozen novelties, the company has been chosen asDairy Foodsmagazine's New Products Company of 2003.

LeCarb is so successful for SouthWest Foods, that the company plans to spin it off to be its own company, rather than a brand of SouthWest Foods, which is a division of Brookshire Grocery Co. Way to go LeCarb!

No longer a niche

What's so unique about LeCarb? Well, for starters, the company uses ingredients and patent-pending process technology to replace or remove the majority of carbohydrates in the milk used to manufacture LeCarb products. As a result, LeCarb products carry the tagline: "Products for the low-carb lifestyle." To date, LeCarb is the only dairy line to include frozen desserts, drinks and cultured products for the growing number of consumers choosing a low-carb lifestyle.

"We're not talking niche anymore," says Fred Calvert, senior v.p. of manufacturing. "Even moms and dads are making low-carb choices in order to reduce the amount of refined sugar they feed their kids."

The low-carb lifestyle appeals to a variety of consumers, and is particularly attractive to the epidemic number of overweight and diabetic individuals in America today looking for good-tasting, nutritious, low-carb alternatives to traditional dairy foods.

Glenn Carlyle (above) challenged Fred Calvert (below) to create a frozen dessert that low-carb dieters could eat without guilt.
There are approximately 17 million diabetics in the United States, or 6.2% of the population, according to the American Diabetics Assn., with that number growing annually. It is estimated that 25 million dieters follow a low-carb lifestyle, and more are hopping on the bandwagon everyday. In fact, this is how the concept of LeCarb came to fruition, hence the company's saying: "We created LeCarb for ourselves, but we made lots to share."

"As a low-carb dieter, Ice cream was the one thing I really missed. I was determined to develop a frozen dessert that tasted great and was not overloaded with carbohydrates," says Calvert.

Glenn Carlyle, dir. of sales, also a low-carb dieter, says, "I challenged Fred to come up with an ice cream product that we could eat and still stay loyal to our diets." Calvert took the challenge seriously.

"We worked on the formulation for the frozen dessert for about a year, and rolled out pints in four flavors (chocolate, lemon, strawberry and vanilla) to the Brookshire stores in December 2001. Soon afterwards, Wal-Mart contacted us, and by October 2002, LeCarb Frozen Dessert was being distributed nationally through Wal-Mart Supercenters.

At the beginning of this year, three new flavors-chocolate almond, cinnamon and homemade vanilla-joined the LeCarb Frozen Dessert pint line. In addition, six-packs of 4-oz cups debuted, first in chocolate and vanilla, and later chocolate almond, lemon and strawberry joined the multi-pack offering.

One half-cup serving of LeCarb contains only 2-3g sugars, depending on flavor. "Compared with 14g sugar in regular ice cream, LeCarb Frozen Dessert really helps consumers control sugar intake," adds Calvert. "Of the 6-7g total carbohydrate in a serving, 2-3g are from glycerine, which has very little impact on blood sugar. The remaining carbohydrate comes from other ingredients."

LeCarb Frozen Dessert is sweetened with sucralose, which is how the company keeps carbohydrates low in the frozen dessert. Patent-pending technology is used in the manufacture of the dairy drink and cultured product.

"We use membrane technology and proprietary processing to remove most of the lactose from the milk that goes into the LeCarb Dairy Drink and LeCarb YoCarb," Calvert says.

Both products were introduced this past July. LeCarb Dairy Drink comes in three varieties. Homogenized, or whole, contains 4g carbohydrates per one-cup serving, while 2% Reduced Fat has 4.5g. These white varieties have around two-thirds less sugar than their "milk" counterparts, and a little more than one-third more protein.

The third variety, Chocolate, which is based on full-fat, or whole milk, has a remarkable 80% reduction in sugar content.

"Chocolate is very attractive to parents who think regular chocolate milk is just too high in sugar," Carlyle says.

"Because of standards of identity, LeCarb Dairy Drink cannot be labeled as milk because the lactose has been removed," he adds. "However, people don't seem to notice that the drinks are not called milk."

Like the dairy drinks, LeCarb YoCarb cannot be labeled yogurt because of the removed lactose; hence, how the company came up with the name YoCarb.

"Yogurt has always been considered a healthy diet food, but for those watching their carbohydrate intake, yogurt really does not fit it," Calvert says. "There are quite a few good yogurts in the marketplace that use non-nutritive sweeteners to reduce sugar content and calories, but even those products are still quite high in carbohydrates."

Through the use of membrane technology and sweetening with sucralose, LeCarb YoCarb only has a maximum of 4g carbohydrate per 4-oz serving, which is about an 80% reduction in sugar compared to regular yogurt. YoCarb comes in seven flavors: Blueberry, key lime, lemon, peach mango, plain, strawberry and strawberry banana.

LeCarb's most recent introduction is back in the freezer. "Even though we have 4-oz cups of the frozen dessert, which assist with portion control, we decided that there were consumers looking for more of an on-the-go treat," says Carlyle. "With the new stick bars, there is no need for dipping or carrying a spoon. Just peel the wrapper for trouble-free indulgence . . . without the carbs."

The 4-oz novelty bars are sold as individual units and in four-packs, with each containing either 3g or 4g carbohydrate. The bars are oval-shaped, similar to some of the higher-end, superpremium bars already in the market.

The bars come in four flavors: Chocolate, chocolate almond, lemon and strawberry. "They have a slightly different body and texture than the pints and cups," Calvert adds.

"Reception to LeCarb has been extremely positive and we are encouraged by the fierce loyalty that has developed in such a short time," concludes Calvert.

Congrats LeCarb as being Dairy Foods magazine's New Products Company of 2003!

Click here for our "Top New Dairy Foods 2003" story.