Digestive health is a globally growing trend

Consumers are actively seeking information about digestive wellness and gut health. Google searches on gut health have skyrocketed in recent years. One of the trends in digestive health is to avoid compounds and foods that cause discomfort – the free-from trend. What often happens, however, is that milk and products containing milk are omitted and not replaced with something that can bring the valuable nutrients of dairy to the consumer’s diet.

“For most people who are lactose intolerant, consuming products that contain lactose gives them digestive problems. Because milk and dairy products provide valuable nutrients and are recommended as part of a balanced and varied diet, a healthier option would be to replace normal dairy with lactose free and low-lactose products rather than to omit milk and other dairy from the diet”, explains Valio’s Senior Research Scientist Tuula Tuure (PhD).

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose is a carbohydrate and natural sugar in milk. Intolerance refers to the symptoms caused by undigested lactose. Most people are born with the ability to digest lactose, but lose the ability as they age. The lack of the intestinal lactase enzyme production can be called lactase non-persistence, which leads to lactose not being digested and thus often leads to lactose intolerance.

“Consumers may not understand what lactose intolerance is; but if they experience symptoms after consuming dairy products, it can be very disturbing and easily lead them to avoiding dairy and a reduced intake of beneficial nutrients contained in dairy”, says Tuure.

Dairy is not just calcium, it is also an excellent source of protein. It contains all the essential amino acids. It is possible to get all these nutrients from lactose free milk and from products made of it. Lactose, the component that causes the intolerance problems, can be removed from the milk while leaving all the nutrients intact.

Webinar: Grow with the digestive wellness trend

Consumers are looking for food choices that enhance digestive wellness and still taste great. An excellent way to answer the rapidly growing demand is to develop lactose free dairy products, snacks and beverages. This webinar is a jump start into the digestive wellness market for food manufacturers.

Get the recording

Market growth in free-from lactose outpacing dairy segment growth

The retail value of lactose-free dairy is already growing by 8% annually. In areas like the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia, the growth rate is exceeding the average, whereas the growth in Western Europe is expected to be at 8%. The market size of lactose free dairy is estimated at 9 Bn €, whereas the global dairy market is around 600 Bn €.

“When Valio Sweden launched the lactose free products, we chose this new growing category and were first to enter the market. We had a few key SKUs, like liquid milk, to be relevant for customers. We systematically expanded the portfolio and introduced new innovations to keep the category interesting”, says SVP Pekka Tola, Valio Global Brand and Marketing.

The most successful brands pick a few consumer benefits and connect them to multiple big trends

“The most successful brands pick a few consumer benefits and connect them to multiple big trends. For example, a protein pudding that builds on the trend of protein-enriched products and then combines it with digestive wellness. The product is lactose free, but this is not actually the unique selling point. It is not even very visibly stated that it is lactose free. The only visible indication is our Valio Eila® logo, which is a promise for consumers of digestive wellness”, says Valio’s SVP for Food Solutions Sales, Timo Pajari.

One common myth related to lactose free products is that they taste sweeter than normal milk. They are also often seen as products only for a special group of people. But with the right lactose free ingredients, lactose free products taste as good or even better than regular products. That makes them a great choice for the whole family or a group of guests.

Lactose free can be a great opportunity for profitability improvement when consumers associate the products with digestive benefits.

Valio Food Solutions offer different ways to help

If you work in a dairy company and you are facing some challenges with growth and profitability, you might be interested in our Valio Fast Track™ technology solution to start the local production of a fresh, high-quality, gut-healthy milk drink. This is often the first step, and liquid milk works as an anchor product to link dairy to digestive wellness. It’s called Fast Track, as it takes only some months from the Go decision to the product launch, and no capital investments are needed.

Valio lactose-free milk powders offer an easy tool for making your milk drink, cold brew coffee, or ice cream something that everyone can enjoy. But the opportunities are not limited only to those products. Lactose-free milk powders can be used in product formulations in the same way as normal milk powders. Valio also offers support in product development and regulatory consultancy. It’s worth noting that lactose-free regulations may differ from one country to another.

“Lactose free can be a great opportunity for profitability improvement when consumers associate the products with digestive benefits. Lactose free dairy may not be mainstream yet, so now is the time to act. The key to success is simple but challenging: making food and beverages with a superior taste and nutritional benefits that consumers want and can enjoy”, emphasises Pajari.

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