In part two of our Changing Tastes series, we put the spotlight on the sizable and successful lactose-free segment that’s spreading around the world

In part one of our Changing Tastes series, we looked at why consumer food and drink preferences are rapidly changing. So, in this fast-moving market, which segments are standing out? A success story has been the boom in lactose-free, which is now the fastest-growing segment of the dairy industry – one that’s estimated to be worth €9 billion by 2022.

Dairy is a cornerstone of everyday diets. Yet it’s now thought that two thirds of the world’s population can’t digest lactose and, as a result, experience digestive discomfort. The growth in lactose-free products has therefore soared in recent years with both new and established players looking to tap into a sizable lactose-intolerant market.    

But it’s not only lactose-intolerant consumers that are driving sales. Thanks to shifting dietary trends and a focus on health and wellness, many are choosing lactose-free products as they perceive them to be healthier. In Finland, for example, lactose intolerance is relatively low yet the country has a mainstream lactose-free market of premium products promoting health benefits. 

A global and growing market

As the lactose-free segment gathers pace, so too is the dairy-free market – only the latter of which is suitable for vegan diets. To compete in this dairy alternative environment, dairy producers are quickly adapting and expanding their portfolios. So much so that the global lactose-free dairy market is now outgrowing the regular dairy segment.

While North America and Europe are key players – the former having the greatest lactose-free market share – Asia-Pacific is set to become the fastest-growing market due to an expected rise in incidences of lactose intolerances together with an increase in the range of available products. Sales in China alone grew from $341m in 2010 to $828m in 2015.

The lactose-free segment has also been aided by technical developments in the industry. Ongoing improvements in the production of lactose enzymes – which breaks down lactose – has helped improve the quality and range of lactose-free dairy products. As well as this, more efficient enzymatic biosensors are allowing companies to measure the lactose content of dairy products with far greater accuracy.

More choice than ever

With start-ups and big players hitting the dairy shift head-on, consumers can now find everything from lactose-free milk and yoghurt to butter, ice cream and cheese. So for every new dairy product that comes onto the market, the potential for lactose-free products grows. In today’s world, you can drink that iced mocha, eat that chocolate chip ice-cream, and smother those nachos in sour cream – all completely lactose-free.

To meet the demand for healthy lactose-free products, SIG’s aseptic carton packaging is well placed to help producers stand out. In Canada, for example, the Rumble brand relaunched its lactose-free, protein-rich Supershakes with SIG’s combismile* pack. And in China, the country’s largest dairy producer Yili also looked to combismile for its premium lactose-free Shuhua milk brand – China’s biggest selling functional milk.

Want to know more about packaging lactose-free products with SIG? Check out our range of solutions for Product Innovation & Differentiation.

And don’t miss part three of our Changing Tastes series when we’ll turn the spotlight to the growth of ambient yoghurt products.

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*combismile is currently not available in Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan

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