More than 70 per cent of the world’s population is currently affected by lactose intolerance. Lactose-free dairy products are becoming increasingly prominent worldwide.
In South Africa, a growing number of consumers are seeking free-from foods, including lactose-free dairy products. Free-from dairy in the region grew by 21 per cent in value sales in 2016, the same year the first lactose-free milk launches of note took place. Lactose-free dairy holds a 23 per cent value share of the free-from category in the region, with sales largely driven by lactose-free infant milk formula.
Responding to consumer demand
Global demand for lactose-free dairy is on the rise, primarily because of its perception as a healthy food product. Consumers are more health conscious and, as a result, are increasingly aware of food allergies and intolerances. For those who suffer from lactose-intolerance, but want to enjoy milk, cheese, and yoghurt without negative side effects, lactose-free dairy products can provide a welcome solution. It is important to note that lactose-free dairy is no longer reserved only for those unable to digest dairy products. Many of today’s health conscious shoppers opt for lactose-free dairy products as a lifestyle choice, believing these to be healthier than regular dairy.
South African dairy producers wanting to keep pace with changing consumer demands can develop lactose-free alternatives of popular food and beverages such as milk, yoghurt, and ice cream, as well as pizza, pasta, cakes and pastries. Moreover, they may wish to serve their customers products that have added health benefits, for example, reduced sugar content or added protein, vitamins or fibre.
The availability of lactose-free products in grocery stores, but also restaurants and cafés, makes life simpler for consumers with concerns about digestive health. This could present an opportunity for South African dairy producers.
Partnering with a dairy expert
The future for lactose-free dairy in South Africa is promising. Understanding consumers’ preferences and the innovation drivers remains key to successful product development. DSM has helped dairy producers tackle lactose intolerance for over 50 years – enabling healthier options for lactose-free consumers. DSM’s neutral lactase enzyme, Maxilact®, splits lactose into glucose and galactose, which completely eliminates the discomfort caused by consuming dairy. Maxilact® also allows dairy producers to achieve sugar reduction by up to 20 per cent. This claim assists lactose-free dairy product appeal even further.