Walk into any supermarket or grocery store in Finland and you will find an abundance of lactose-free dairy products. From plain milk and yogurt, to cooking cream, chocolate and ice cream, there is a lactose-free option for almost every dairy-based staple and snack.
Traditionally, lactose-free milk has been reserved for those individuals unable to digest regular milk and dairy products. Perhaps surprisingly, the prevalence of lactose intolerance is relatively low in Finland, similar to that in other European countries, and significantly lower than that observed in regions of high lactose intolerance such as Asia, Africa and South America.
It is estimated that 90–100% of adults in East Asia and 80% in Central Asia have an impaired ability to digest lactose, while this figure is just 4% in Denmark, 15% in Germany, and 17% in Finland. In North America it is thought that 15% of the Caucasian population and 80% of the African American population are lactose intolerant.
Putting aside the incidence of lactose intolerance, there are two key factors that mark Finland out as different when it comes to the forces shaping the lactose-free dairy market: High per capita dairy consumption, and a dynamic and highly innovative dairy landscape. In addition, and likely largely as a result of these two factors, consumer knowledge of lactose intolerance is strong in Finland.
Across all three markets surveyed, seeing a lactose-free product in the supermarket was the most common route for people to discover lactose-free dairy – underlining the importance of appealing and informative packaging and point of sale promotion.
The role that healthcare professionals can play in boosting consumer awareness of the benefits of lactose-free dairy – as well as the value of consumer education through advertising, social media, food bloggers and other marketing strategies – can help consumers understand the nutritional content of lactose-free dairy and help them to make informed decisions in the supermarket aisles.
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17 February 2019