Lactose-free dairy innovation to be driven by gut health

September 22, 2021
3 min read

Digestibility in dairy has become a vital issue for Asians: about two thirds have difficulty absorbing lactose. Despite dairy’s nutrient-rich image, consumers are looking for products that are easy to digest while still addressing their health needs. It creates an opportunity for brands to provide better digestion in dairy.

Brands can reinforce digestibility in dairy through lactose-free positioning

Although milk is an established staple in many households, many consumers claim to find dairy difficult to digest; this has caused some to reduce or avoid milk intake and switch to plant-based alternatives. Some major cow’s milk producers sought to benefit from the lactose-free trend over the past two years by focusing their innovation efforts around lactose-free milk. Brands can highlight the perceived health benefits of lactose-free dairy (e.g. digestion-friendly), which play an increasingly prominent role in this category’s strong growth. A significant number of APAC consumers are interested in dairy products, such as lactose-free milk, suitable for lactose intolerants. In India, 25% of consumers are encouraged to consume more/start consuming lactose-free dairy drinks. In Thailand, 85% of consumers claim to be interested in digestion-friendly dairy milk, such as lactose-free varieties.

In APAC, lactose-free dairy product launches are on the rise

Though still in the early stage, the launch of lactose-free dairy in APAC has increased by 209% over the last five years. White milk, flavoured milk, and drinking yogurt & liquid cultured milk are the most common lactose-free dairy varieties launched. Lactose-free butter, processed cheese, and flavoured milk are showing growth in the region.

Lactose-free could strengthen ease of digestion messaging

Lactose-free dairy remains niche in APAC, and knowledge of lactose’s relation to digestion is limited. To drive usage and awareness of lactose-free dairy’s health value, education and more product availability are essential. Supporting lactose-free positioning with straightforward on-pack messaging (like calling out the ease of digestion) can appeal to a broader segment of consumers with digestive health issues, beyond just those with lactose intolerance. Liddell’s-owned Saputo brands highlight “easy to digest” on pack. The dairy brand has developed milk, cheese and cream as a way for those with lactose intolerance to enjoy the taste and texture of dairy without the effects of an upset stomach.

Strengthen the gut health power of lactose-free dairy with functional fibre

Functional fibre is a beneficial gut health ingredient that brands can add into lactose-free dairy. The heightened consumer interest in gut health solutions shows brands’ need to focus on the link between fibre ingredients like prebiotics and gut health. The leading fibre ingredients in dairy are inulin, FOS, IOS and polydextrose. 46% of Chinese consumers would be interested in trying flavoured milk with added fibre. Touting added fibre’s gut health functionality in lactose-free dairy milk may further help consumers reach for lactose-free dairy products, as people continue to struggle to achieve the recommended daily fibre intake.

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