Valio Eila® lactose free success for ten years

Lactose free dairy products are a familiar sight for many of today’s consumers but have been with only since 2001. Here’s the extraordinary story of their success.

Lactose free dairy products are a familiar sight for many of today’s consumers but have been with only since 2001. Here’s the extraordinary story of their success.

Leading expertise in lactose free

Valio lactose free milk drink containing less than 0.01% lactose was the world’s first dairy product to give people who cannot tolerate lactose the chance to enjoy the taste of fresh milk again, and reap the nutritional benefits that come with it.

The Valio Eila® lactose freebrand stands for Expertise In Lactose free and is a firm favourite in Valio’s domestic market. The lactose free milk drink has been the source of any number of novel innovations and was the launch pad for the development of Valio Eila® lactose free products, ingredients and technology.

First in every way

The initiative to apply this advanced technology to the production of lactose free milk drink got Valio to market first and has combined with the swift extension of the product range to deliver success to both Valio and its licensing partners. The extra value added for the consumer is the real milk taste which has none of the slight sweetness associated with low lactose products.

Consumers continue to play their part

Consumer enthusiasm was immense from the moment the product hit the shelves. Pent up demand had gone unrecognised because people suffering from lactose intolerance simply hadn’t expected to be able to drink milk again. Early feedback revealed a wish list expressing latent demand for a lactose free alternative for any and all dairy products. This has played a considerable part in the rapid growth and diversification of Valio’s lactose free portfolio.

A few figures to consider

Just over ten years ago, with many low lactose products available to sufferers of lactose intolerance, it seemed unlikely there would be much demand for lactose free dairy. In fact, the historic emergence of lactose free products has not cannibalised sales of existing low lactose items.

Valio launched the world’s first lactose free milk drink for test marketing in Finland in 2001, targeting first year sales of one million litres which were satisfied in the first two months. Sales hit 12 million litres in 2002 and with little short of phenomenal growth stood at almost 70 million litres in 2010.

Valio Eila® lactose free milk drink is now one of Valio’s most popular domestic products with net sales for the lactose free range amounting to 150 million euros in 2012.

Valio’s entire lactose free product range includes a wide range of items, the newest of which are Valio Eila™ Laktoositon series Greek style yoghurts and a 3% fat ESL milk drink for cooking and baking.

Research and development

10% of Valio’s annual R&D budget is spent on the development of new technologies. There are a number of extremely interesting projects in the pipeline including new kinds of milk drink. Work on lactose free technology is far from over as the manufacturing technique is subject to continuous development and Valio currently holds dozens of patents related to lactose free production.

Exports & licensing

The world’s first lactose free milk drink is still the market leader in Europe, and Valio exports a selection of its lactose free products to Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Sweden. Valio started lactose free technology sales in 2003 and licensees are currently active in the Netherlands, Norway South Korea, Spain and Switzerland. The first lactose free milk powder ingredient for the food industry was launched in 2007.

Recognized for innovation

Valio lactose free semi-skimmed milk drink picked up the Finnish Food and Drinks Industries’ Federation Star Product of the Year award in 2002, and in 2006 Valio’s lactose removal method received the European FoodTec Gold Award followed in 2008 by the Finnish Engineering Award.