Lactagen Hopes Search Test Does a Body Good

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Lactagen is starting its first round of marketing through the Internet for a new dietary supplement targeting lactose-intolerant people nationwide.


The three-month test includes search marketing, viral efforts like online chats and message boards and public relations to drive qualified traffic to the site at www.lactagen.com. Online, visitors can buy the product directly from the Los Angeles-based manufacturer.


"We'll be using this test period to compile as much data as we can from the results so we can plan a much higher volume campaign in the future," said Brad Solomon, president of Lactagen agency UnReal Marketing Solutions, Narberth, PA.


Key to the agency's test is paid placement on search engines Google and Overture as well as natural optimization on Google. Keywords bought include "lactose intolerance," "dairy allergies" and "lactase dietary supplement." The keywords link to lactagen.com.


Viral marketing and PR support the search marketing, which begins Friday. Lactagen eventually will use affiliate marketing and e-mail. A branding effort also debuts later, aimed at various U.S. ethnic groups.


"The online marketing campaign has been implemented to help consumers who thought that they had to permanently eliminate dairy from their diets," Solomon said. "Once they complete the program, they can enjoy foods that they've been forced to give up and gain the high amounts of calcium and other nutrients they need on a daily basis."


According to Lactagen's data, 70 million consumers are lactose intolerant. By ethnicities, 95 percent of Asian-Americans, 90 percent of African-Americans, 74 percent of American Indians, 70 percent of Hispanics and 25 percent of Caucasians have the condition.


Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to digest significant amounts of lactose, the sugar found in milk. This results from being unable to produce lactase, an enzyme normally generated by cells that line the small intestine. Lactase breaks down lactose. The trouble arises when there is not enough lactase to digest the lactose consumed.


Lactagen was created seven years ago by 14-year-old Andrew Ritter, who was lactose intolerant at the time. After much research and testing, and winning the 1997 California State Science Fair, Ritter again was able to eat dairy products. Many people have been treated since then, according to Lactagen.


Lactagen is a powder dissolved in water and taken with dinner for 2 1/2 weeks, then twice a day for the same time as the previous regimen. The program painlessly reintroduces lactase into the digestive system. The 38-day regimen costs $124.95 plus taxes and shipping. Customers can register for a Lactagen e-mail newsletter while placing the online order.


"This is the first time they've done any marketing," Solomon said. "They'll probably offline-market down the line, but right now they feel that the Internet is the quickest cost-effective way to market this unique product."


Since Lactagen is a natural product, it does not require Food and Drug Administration approval, which makes it easier to sell directly to consumers online.


Visitors at lactagen.com can read the founder's story. There is information on self-diagnosis, the process itself, research and news. If satisfied with the supplement's credentials, consumers can place an order on the site to get a 16.2-ounce container of Lactagen. UnReal Marketing created the lactagen.com site.


Lactagen is not the first product in the market to treat lactose intolerance. Among others, McNeil Nutritionals, a Fort Washington, PA, drug maker, produces its Lactaid range of dietary supplements. Like Lactagen, Lactaid is available online, at www.lactaid-store.com. The Internet's reach makes it an obvious channel for old and new lactose-intolerance products.


"Some people might be embarrassed to go to the drugstore and buy a product that treats this condition," Solomon said. "We felt that a targeted online campaign would help us reach more customers than it would if we pursued other channels at this time. It also allows us to track the results and the sales."


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