Finland’s thriving lactose free marketplace reveals opportunities for companies large and small in developed and emerging markets.
The demand for lactose free products in Finland is driven largely by consumer awareness and takes in most sectors of the food industry where dairy ingredients are involved.
Other motivators, and Valio collaborates with all the relevant players as part of its commitment to health and well-being, include active intervention on the part of health care professionals underpinned by robust research and science.
The result is a busy and profitable marketplace where Finnish food businesses of all kinds have successfully developed and manufactured lactose free ranges made widely and easily available in even the smallest retail outlets, sold alongside regular products on shop shelves. Lactose free dairy ingredients such as Valio Eila® lactose free milk powders have enabled a growing number of food manufacturers to take a valuable share of this value added market.
Valio Eila® lactose free milk powders have a proven track record in Finland and abroad of delivering superior solutions across a range of food applications. Valio’s success in our home markets in delivering lactose free products made with fresh lactose free milk and cream is indicative of what can be achieved with products based on our lactose free milk powders.
Replicating the Finnish model
Finland is one of the most developed lactose free markets in the world. An estimated 17% of the population amounting to almost one million people is lactose intolerant, awareness is high and milk is in itself a popular drink. So consumers are especially motivated to find lactose free alternatives rather than simply give up dairy foods and those that contain dairy ingredients. But Finland is by no means an exception as our ingredients customers have demonstrated.
Naturally the food companies actively market options, while education delivered by health professionals plays a significant role in growing the market. It’s a kind of self-reinforcing feedback loop, explains Laura Enbom, Export Manager for Valio Eila® lactose free Milk Powders.
Health and value added
Dairy products and those containing dairy ingredients are valued for their nutrition and health effects as well as taste by consumers who understand the difference between lactose free and dairy free. They want the benefits of dairy without the lactose. In fact, lactose free is increasingly seen as a required property and other benefits are bolted on.
In some other countries – the UK is a good example – there is a tendency to self-diagnose problems related to dairy consumption as cow’s milk allergy, leading people to adopt a totally dairy free diet. Clinical diagnosis indicates that lactose intolerance is a far more common cause, so many in this group are simply unaware that it’s lactose they should be avoiding rather than dairy as a whole.
Facts and figures: Why low lactose and lactose free work
Since the early 1970s, many studies have been published on lactose intolerance and the media have presented the results to a now well informed public with an interest in health and nutrition. Influential stakeholder groups have also played their part and Valio can in essence count itself as one of them.
We have marketed low lactose HYLA ® products continuously for 30 years and lactose free since 2001. In test marketing Valio lactose free milk in Finland, interest exceeded all expectations. The first year’s sales target of one million litres was met in the first two months and sales have continued to grow ever since. The product tastes like regular milk and consumers have shown themselves more than willing to pay a premium.
Valio Eila® lactose free milk powders in a nutshell
• Lactose free (less than 0.1% lactose)
• Excellent, natural taste from high quality Finnish milk
• High protein content • Low carbohydrate content
• Deliver an excellent end product structure
• More for less − c. 20-25% lower dosage than using standard milk powder
• Dairy products
• Ice cream
• Bakery products
• Ready meals (pâtés, soups and sauces)
• Meat products
• Infant formulas
• Nutritional supplements and dietary products
• Pet foods