Consumer education on lactose intolerance is needed if manufacturers want to tap into the significant growth potential of lactose-free dairy, industry research has claimed.
Opportunity for Lactose-Free Dairy, which was published by UK-based Zenith International, looked at lactose-free dairy markets in 33 countries and identified significant growth potential for the lactose-free dairy.
According to estimates, around 70-75% of the world’s population may be lactose intolerant.
Global milk, yogurt and cheese consumption currently stands at around 200m tonnes per year, which according to Zenith represents a substantial opportunity for dairy manufacturers.
Zenith International senior analyst Laura Knight told DairyReporter.com that in order for processors to fully take advantage of this opportunity, consumers must be better educated on lactose intolerance and how lactose-free dairy products can help them manage their condition.
She added that it is also essential to overcome the misconception that lactose free milk is not 'real' milk.
“People do need to be educated on lactose-free dairy products to help overcome misconceptions,” said Knight.
“Consumers need to be educated that lactose free dairy products are ‘real’ dairy products with the same beneficial nutrients as ‘normal dairy products, and that they can be an effective way of allowing lactose intolerant consumers to continue to consume dairy products without experiencing discomfort.”
Responsibility to educate lies with healthcare professionals and manufacturers, who “have an important part to play in spreading the word about lactose-free dairy products.”
Zero Lactose manufacturer Valio is one of only a few to have provided education on the benefits of lactose-free dairy. According to Knight, Valio has been a “pioneer in the market” having successfully spread the word in the Scandinavian market.
“Closer to come, Arla Foods has made significant investment in marketing campaigns to educate UK consumers and have virtually single-handedly driven growth in the UK lactose-free dairy market,” Knight added.
“Governments may also have a role to play, particularly in countries where dairy consumption is currently low and lactose intolerance is high. Promoting lactose free dairy would be a way for Governments to promote dairy consumption to potentially gain population health benefits in the long term."
Demand for lactose-free dairy has seen dramatic growth in developed regions including North America, Central Europe and Western Europe in recent years.
However, Asia, Latin America and Africa, where dairy consumption is rising and lactose intolerance is estimated to be high, remain “relatively untapped.”
“These markets could offer a significant opportunity for dairy producers, providing they invest in educating consumers and health professionals and government,” said Knight.
Knight added that although lactose-free dairy holds great potential, it is unlikely to overtake ‘regular’ milk consumption.
“Although the market is growing, the number of dairy producers offering lactose free dairy products is still relatively small, and the investment required to enter the market may be a barrier to some,” she concluded.