Thursday, October 6, 2022

The Argument for Making Dairy Foods Lactose Free


To prepare for two presentations this coming week at the QCS Purchasing Cooperative Annual Conference, I took a deep dive into FMI’s “The Power of Plant-Based Foods and Beverages 2022” report. In it, I found my argument for making dairy foods lactose free. 

For starters, only 2% of the consumers surveyed--a nationally representative sample of 2,009 U.S. grocery shoppers who were 18 years of age or older--between May 9 and 25, 2022, consider themselves vegan. That means 98% of consumers may be open to enjoying dairy foods. 

The study also showed that many of that 98% are actively trying to include more plant-based foods in their daily diet. This includes plant-based dairy. 

Many shoppers (42%) responding to FMI’s survey put either a lot (14%) or some effort (28%) into selecting plant-based options. Not surprisingly, those who regularly eat animal product alternatives (43% of shoppers) are more likely to put additional effort into selecting plant-based foods and beverages. Members of younger generations, particularly millennials (25% a lot, 37% some), show a greater inclination than Gen X and Boomers to say they put more effort into selecting plant-based foods and beverages.

When it comes specifically to dairy milk alternatives (FMI kindly refrained from calling them plant-based milks), the number-one reason (37%) that prompted trial was taste, followed by nutrition/healthier (36%). And we all know the latter is simply not true. 

Here’s where it gets interesting. Taste was also the number-one reason for not repurchasing, as indicated by half of those surveyed. 

Other studies I’ve reviewed suggest that consumers do not expect plant-based options to taste the same as the real deal; however, they must taste good. Clearly these products are not making the grade. But they are improving. 

Graph source: FMI, The Power of Plant-Based Foods and Beverages 2022

And here’s my argument for taking your dairy products to the next level by eliminating lactose: 

“The gradual shift in people’s preferences towards lactose-free products will be the future catalyst for the dairy alternatives market in North America,” according to a report published by Ken Research in June 2022. 

As taste preferences evolve, products improve and the fear of lactose amplifies, plant-based dairy may become more appealing to consumers. To keep your dairy products relevant to today’s shoppers, eliminate the lactose, please. 

The dairy enzymes market is expected to exceed $1 billion by 2030, according to a new research report by Global Market Insights Inc. A major driver of growth is a shift in consumer preferences for lactose-free dairy products, according to the report. 

Graph source: FMI, The Power of Plant-Based Foods and Beverages 2022

Processors may add lactase to milk before processing in order to make a lactose-free claim. The lactase enzyme breaks down lactose, a disaccharide, into its constituent monosaccharides, glucose and galactose, which are sweeter tasting than lactose. This may also allow for a reduction in “added sugars,” while at the same time make the product easier to digest for those with lactose intolerances or sensitivities. 

Approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, according to the National Institutes of Health. When lactose does not break down in the small intestine, it passes into the large intestine, where it may cause diarrhea, bloating and gas. 
Good Culture has been finding much success with its lactose-free cottage cheese and sour cream products. The company just added an organic lactose-free cottage cheese to its lineup. 

All of Good Culture’s lactose-free cottage cheeses are made with just five simple ingredients: pasture-raised milk and cream, sea salt, live and active cultures, and lactase enzyme. 

And in case you missed the announcement, consumers are eating more dairy than ever before. Let’s keep this momentum going. 

American consumers snapped up their favorite dairy products at a record rate in 2021, according to new data from the USDA Economic Research Service. The data show per capita consumption of dairy grew by 12.4 pounds over the previous year, continuing a near 50-year growth trend that started in 1975 when USDA began tracking annual consumption of milk, cheese, butter and everything else in the dairy case. Among the products showing strong growth are American-type cheese, up 0.5 pounds, butter up 0.2 pounds, and yogurt adding 0.7 pounds. 

“The growth and evolution of U.S. dairy is one of the greatest success stories in food and beverage today,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “Dairy begins with fresh, wholesome milk and then it becomes hundreds of delicious, nutritious products that fulfill America’s food and health culture. U.S. consumers turn to dairy for health and wellness, nutrition, escape, celebration and so much more. That love for dairy is especially important now when so many shoppers are careful with their spending, underscoring that dairy remains affordable and nourishing to consumers at all income levels. 

“Record U.S. dairy exports demonstrate that the world is turning to American dairy, too, putting the U.S. on a path to be the world’s leading supplier of affordable, sustainable dairy nutrition,” said Dykes. “All of this is a credit to America’s dairy foods makers who continue to innovate and evolve. Today’s dairy is different because dairy is evolving.”

Lactose free is part of that evolution. 

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