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DSM in Food, Beverages & Dietary Supplements

The evolving market for lactose-free

Providing dairy for all and not just the lactose intolerant.
The evolving market for lactose-free

Dairy plays a vital role in a healthy, balanced diet. Providing protein, vitamins and calcium, its benefits to children and adults are widely acknowledged, but the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance, bloating for example, can mean people actively avoid dairy and miss out on the benefits of dairy in their diets. It is estimated that around 70% of the world population is lactose-intolerant. 

Recent years have seen the rise of plant based dairy, with the emergence of soya milk, almond milk and coconut water. These dairy alternatives have made huge strides in providing the benefits of dairy, with many containing roughly the same amount of protein as cow’s milk but half the saturated fat. However, consumers do not always accept these dairy alternatives because they do not taste like milk. 

As a leading producer of lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking-down the lactose in dairy, we were keen to understand the needs driving lactose-free dairy. We carried out research to explore behaviours and preferences of those who identify themselves as lactose-free dairy consumers in three different dairy markets: Finland, where lactose-free is mainstream and people can easily enjoy as part of their everyday diet, and China and Colombia, upcoming markets with high incidence of lactose intolerance.

We identified that the drivers for lactose-free dairy in Finland are markedly different to those in emerging dairy markets such as China and Colombia. What united these emerging markets was that lactose-free dairy enjoyed a broad health appeal, and is seen as easy to digest, nutritious and delicious. This is one of the key driver for consumer preference and therefore market growth.

To catalyse market growth further, we identified six drivers that can help dairy manufacturers in other parts of the world unlock dairy benefits for lactose-free consumers:

  1. Innovate by introducing health benefits like easy to digest, high proteins, fibres and vitamins.
  2. Innovate by extending the product line from plain milk into yogurt, cheese and spreads.
  3. Identity new retail channels such as cafes and restaurants.
  4. Promote and educate consumers on the health benefits of lactose free dairy.
  5. Raise awareness benefits of lactose free, and lactose free products and brands, via social media.
  6. Focus on informative & engaging packaging
What consumers want is healthy, nutritious dairy that they can incorporate into their daily diets without worrying about lactose intolerance. Plant based alternatives can offer some of these benefits and have risen in popularity but for many they can represent a compromise in taste, texture or nutritional profile. The good news is that with today’s lactose-free technologies, it is possible to achieve the best of both worlds, the taste and nutrition of dairy without the discomfort of lactose. 

How would you unlock the health benefits of lactose-free dairy?

For more information, read our report here.

How Sustainable is Your Cheese?


Marten Paasman

Global Business Manager – Dairy Enzymes, DSM Food Specialties

Responsible for DSM product Maxilact®; the leading lactase product in the market that enables dairies to produce lactose-free dairy, and makes it possible that the good taste and nutrition of dairy can be enjoyed by all, also by those who are lactose-intolerant.

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