Friday, October 9, 2020

Eliminating Lactose Improves Dairy’s Position in the “Foods for Health” Movement


More than ever, foods need to do more than satisfy appetites. They need to offer legitimate health benefits, according to a new report from Lux Research. 

Dairy foods can do that!

“Whether helping a consumer’s athletic intentions, cognitive performance or another aspect of health maintenance, foods and beverages are more frequently pushing beyond just claiming convenience, enjoyment and satiety,” according to the report. “The beginnings of this concept come from initial efforts to reduce the prevalence of ‘bad’ ingredients in foods and beverages, and as the bar has been raised on the relative healthfulness of all products, developers seeking to stand out from the crowd have turned to not just less ‘bad’ but more ‘good’ in their products. Many are looking to foods as part of their health in an active way, creating an opportunity for food companies to evolve into health companies and vice versa.”

Milk inherently has the “good” and is also the perfect canvas for the addition of even more “good.” For some consumers, the only thing holding them back from consuming dairy foods is the lactose. The solution is to eliminate it. 

Real or perceived, a growing number of consumers claim to be lactose intolerant. As a result, they avoid all dairy products. Processors are discovering that eliminating lactose—a disaccharide unique to all mammalian milk—from dairy foods may prevent consumers from switching to dairy alternatives when the sole reason for the swap is to avoid lactose. 

Approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, according to the National Institutes of Health. This is due to the lack of the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking lactose down into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose. When lactose does not break down in the small intestine, it passes into the large intestine, where it may cause diarrhea, bloating and gas. 

Real or perceived, a growing number of consumers claim to be lactose intolerant. As a result, they avoid all dairy products. Processors are discovering that eliminating lactose—a disaccharide unique to all mammalian milk—from dairy foods may prevent consumers from switching to dairy alternatives when the sole reason for the swap is to avoid lactose. 

Approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, according to the National Institutes of Health. This is due to the lack of the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking lactose down into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose. When lactose does not break down in the small intestine, it passes into the large intestine, where it may cause diarrhea, bloating and gas. 

Dairy foods processors can do this for the consumer. It’s easy. Simply add the lactase to the milk during manufacturing. A side perk to this process is that glucose and galactose are sweeter than lactose, and in products such as flavored milk, ice cream and yogurt, an “added-sugar” reduction may be possible. 

Lux Research identified “food for health” as one of six megatrends shaping the food industry as we move out of 2020. In the report titled “The Food Company of 2050,” Lux Research analyzed startup trends, social norms and corporate concerns and was able to outline what food companies must do now to survive and thrive over the next 30 years.

“Food companies will need to adjust and adapt to the six trends in order to truly thrive,” says Thomas Hayes, analyst at Lux Research and report author. “Consumers are increasingly demanding. They are aligning spending habits with health and sustainability. Food companies will need to take some big risks to truly thrive and stay competitive in the long run.” 

Hayes predicts that nearly all products sold will pivot to make health-related claims, with the aim of reducing dependence on medical intervention. Products will also need to pivot to be more sustainable in terms of reducing food waste, working toward decarbonization efforts and providing sustainable packaging.

Lactose-free dairy foods can do all this and more. 

There are a number of lactose-free dairy market research reports in circulation, all of them varying with their forecast on the growth of the global lactose-free dairy products market. But what they all have in common is the expectation that the category will show healthy growth over the next decade. Market experts anticipate that lactose-free dairy products will become more mainstream and show an increase in market penetration due to rising consumer awareness. Product innovation could be key for players, especially individual dairy foods manufacturers. On the whole, lactose-free dairy products are foreseen to make a highly profitable and interesting market in the years ahead.

Promoting digestibility is part of the messaging. This has become easier with the use of high-quality lactase enzyme systems. 

HP Hood produces the Lactaid brand of dairy products. Milk products have been fairing quite well for the brand, even in years past when retail sales of fluid milk were in a downward spiral. That, of course, has changed with the pandemic. For the 52-week period ending July 12, 2020, according to IRI, Lactaid low-fat and skim milk sales were up 10.3% to $463.5 million, while Lactaid whole milk sales increased 19.6%, ringing in at $197.3 million. This is about double the growth experienced last year. The brand can also be found on ice cream, cottage cheese and seasonal eggnog. 

Recently Hood introduced Lactaid Protein Milk, which has 10% more of the Daily Value of protein per serving compared to regular milk. Available in Whole and 2% varieties, the milk is fortified with ultra-filtered skim milk to deliver 13 grams of protein in every 8-ounce serving. Added lactase renders the milk lactose free. It comes in 52-ounce gable-top cartons. 

There clearly is a need for lactose-free milk, which is one of the least tolerated dairy foods by those with lactose sensitivities. That’s because lactose-intolerance symptoms typically occur when the load of lactose is very large and rapidly arrives in the large intestine. Fluid milk is the most concentrated source of lactose.

Most value-added milk brands now include lactose-free options. This includes milks that are organic and higher in protein, with the latter accomplished through either filtration or the addition of milk proteins.

Consumer demand for Darigold FIT milk is growing rapidly. Launched in the Pacific Northwest market in early 2019, FIT doubled its sales and distribution the second half of that first year in market. To support this growth, Darigold Inc., invested $67 million in its Boise, Idaho, facility earlier this year.

FIT was developed in response to consumer trends that demand “better for you” products, which are also delicious and convenient. Using ultrafiltration, FIT is designed to give consumers the taste they want while being lactose free. This is accomplished through the use of ultra-filtered milk and guaranteed by the addition of lactase. This fresh milk has 75% more protein and 40% less sugar compared to traditional milk. 

The line includes 2% Chocolate and 2% White in 59-ounce gable-top cartons and 14-ounce single-serve bottles. There’s also Whole Milk in 59-ounce cartons. 

“FIT was inspired by our farmer owners’ desire to revitalize fluid milk,” says Duane Naluai, senior vice president. “They, more than anyone, know Darigold must provide consumers with new and relevant types of milk that preserve the wholesome and nutritious foundation that makes milk great in the first place. The positive consumer response we have received gives us confidence that FIT is bringing consumers back to fluid dairy.”

The investment in Boise not only expands FIT but also serves as a platform for re-launching other classic Darigold beverages. This investment includes modern aseptic packaging to produce FIT as a shelf-stable product that can be shipped and stored without refrigeration. It will also reduce the company’s environmental footprint as it relates to water use, plastic, corrugated material and overall energy use. The first production run using the shelf-stable packaging will be happening soon.

Anderson Erickson now offers Nourish Lactose-Free Whole and Reduced Fat Milk. The products are all about “nourishing your body and brain,” as they deliver all the inherent nutrition of milk with the added benefits of probiotic cultures. To ensure digestibility, lactase is added to allow for a lactose-free claim. 

Crystal Creamery also added lactose-free milk to its lineup about a year ago. The half-gallon gable-top cartons come in 1%, 2% and Whole varieties. 

Verde Campo markets high-protein Jabuticaba Natural Whey drink, which is made with “skimmed pasteurized milk, whey protein concentrate, lactase enzyme, pectin stabilizer, natural aroma and stevia.” It is 100% natural, lactose free and contains no added sugars. The drink comes in 250-gram and 500-gram bottles in flavors such as Banana, Coconut, Cookies and Cream, Peanut Butter, Strawberry, Vanilla and Jabuticaba. Jabuticaba is a typical Brazilian berry that grows on the Plinia cauliflora tree. It has a very dark purple peel, white pulp and a unique sweet flavor. A 250-gram bottle of jabuticaba-flavored Natural Whey contains 14 grams of protein, with 60% being whey proteins and 40% casein. Verde Campo is a Brazilian dairy that was acquired by the Coca-Cola Company in 2016.

Spruce Haven has developed Pursue Happiness Cowffee. This Upstate New York dairy is using a patented feed ingredient to increase the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) content of milk by two to three times. This milk is used in its new shelf-stable whole milk cold-brew coffee, a first-of-its-kind beverage that has been in development for nearly four years. One 11-ounce prisma pack provides 120 milligrams of CLA, a naturally occurring component of ruminant milk fat and meat. Consumption by humans is associated with lean-muscle development and fat burning. It also has cancer-fighting properties. The product contains 220 calories and provides 20 grams of protein. The formulation includes lactase, which breaks down the lactose and enhances inherent sweetness. It is only sweetened with 3 grams of pure cane sugar. The coffee is sourced from Fincas Dos Marias, Guatemala, where growers are paid above fair-trade prices. It is roasted in Syracuse, N.Y., and brewed by Peak & Skiff, Lafayette, N.Y. It is a completely traceable supply chain. Spruce Haven was founded in 1987 with 120 cows and 75 heifers. Today the farm has 2,000 cows, 1,850 heifers, and 3,700 acres of crop acres of corn and alfalfa.

Emmi has introduced Energy Milk High Protein Whey to select European markets. The 330-milliliter bottles deliver 30 grams of whey protein, along with 6,800 milligrams of branched-chain amino acids, which assist with recovery and muscle growth after exercise. The milk comes in two flavors: Choco-Hazelnut and Strawberry-Rhubarb. Lactase is added to make the milk lactose free. It’s sweetened by fruit juice and the high-intensity sweeteners cyclamate and acesulfame K.

fairlife now offers failife Nutrition Plan. The high-protein, low-sugar nutrition shakes come in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors in 11.5-ounce bottles. Labels emphasize the inclusion of high-quality protein. Made with ultra-filtered low-fat milk treated with lactase enzyme to ensure the beverage is lactose free, the shakes are sweetened with acesulfame potassium, sucralose, monkfruit extract and stevia, delivering only 2 grams of sugar per serving. With 150 calories, 30 grams of high-quality protein and eight naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, the new shakes complement weight loss and weight management diets, and function as a convenient, on-the-go meal replacement.

The company entered the refrigerated creamer category earlier this year with four varieties--Caramel Coffee, Hazelnut, Sweet Cream and Vanilla--made with the company’s nonfat ultra-filtered milk. Other ingredients include cream, sugar, flavor and lactase enzyme, rendering the creamer lactose free. Touting a 40% reduction in sugar, as compared to other creamers, the product comes in 16-ounce plastic bottles. 
At the beginning of the year, the company was fully acquired by The Coca-Cola Co., which had a minority stake until January 2020. Coca-Cola said fairlife will continue to operate as a standalone business in Chicago. This support is fueling innovation at the company and enabling it to fly out of its comfort zone of fluid dairy. 

For example, the brand is now in the freezer. Ice cream pints come in Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cookies & Cream, Double Fudge Brownie, Java Chip, Mint Chip and Vanilla flavors. Non-fat ultrafiltered milk is the first ingredient, followed by cream. Whey protein and egg yolk give the ice cream a protein boost, providing 9 grams per two-thirds cup serving, or 23 grams per container. It’s sweetened with cane sugar, allulose and monkfruit extract, allowing for a “40% less sugar than traditional ice cream” claim. It does not contain sugar alcohols. Lactase enzyme allows for a lactose-free claim. The light ice cream gets an additional nutrition boost with the addition of corn fiber, providing 3 grams per serving. A serving contains 140 to 190 calories, and 6 to 11 grams of fat, depending on flavor.

Lactose-free dairy desserts and cultured dairy foods are also gaining traction, especially products with added nutrition. They complement the “Foods for Health” movement.

About a year ago, Ehrmann introduced High-Protein Pudding. The 200-gram single-serve containers come in Caramel, Chocolate and Vanilla varieties. The pudding is lactose free thanks to the use of the lactase enzyme, and contains no added sugars. It is sweetened with acesulfame k and sucralose. Each serving provides 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 8 grams of sugar and 20 grams of protein.

The Hain Celestial Group now offers The Greek Gods Less Sugar Greek-style yogurt. Containing 50% less sugar than the leading brands of regular flavored yogurt, the new keto-friendly product is made with whole milk sourced from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones. The yogurt contains seven different live and active cultures, including probiotics. Formulations include milk protein isolate for extra protein. Lactase enzyme renders the product lactose free and also assists with sweetness. A touch of cane sugar rounds it out. The yogurt comes in five flavors: Black Cherry, Blueberry, Peach, Strawberry and Vanilla. Each 4.5-ounce cup contains 140 calories, 10 grams of fat, 6 to 7 grams of sugar (2 grams are “added sugars”) and 6 grams of protein.

The Collective Dairy in Australia now offers spoonable kefir. This lactose-free prebiotic and probiotic fermented dairy food includes chicory root fiber and 13 active culture strains to “really help give you some good tummy lovin’.” Much like traditional yogurt, what sets spoonable kefir apart is the diverse blend and number of live cultures. They are: Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis biovar diacetylactis, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Leuconostoc pseudomesenteroides and Streptococcus thermophilus.

In addition to a natural plain product, the company recently offered a limited-edition Date Cacao option. Both varieties included lactase to allow for a lactose-free claim. 

FAGE is embracing the lactose-free trend with FAGE BestSelf low-fat Greek yogurt. Speaking directly to the “Foods for Health” movement, FAGE BestSelf comes in a plain variety in 5.3-ounce and 32-ounce containers. With no-added-sugars, a serving contains 110 calories, 3 grams of fat, 5 grams of sugar and 15 grams of protein. The blended varieties include chicory root fiber to additionally assist with keeping added sugars on the lower side. Varieties are: Blueberry, Peach, Strawberry and Vanilla. A serving contains 110 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 9 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein. And, as you may have guessed, lactase allows for a lactose-free claim and also helps with keeping added sugars down. 


The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) has doubled the number of semi-finalists and added more than $350,000 in additional awards to the Real California Milk Snackcelerator, its dairy product innovation competition. Inspired by the number of quality ideas and products that integrate the flavor and functionality of California dairy into both sweet and savory snack formulations, the VentureFuel-run competition has expanded to include 16 companies competing for more than $800,000 in awards. 

The Real California Milk Snackcelerator taps into the $605 billion global snack food market while combining two of California’s great natural resources: High quality, sustainable dairy products and the insatiable California entrepreneurial spirit. The competition aims to inspire innovation and investment in dairy-based snack products, packaging and capacity within California by connecting the dots between processors, producers, investors, ideas and entrepreneurs. A number of them are lactose free. 

Sweet Entries:
Peekaboo Ice Cream is the first and only organic ice cream with the added nutritional benefits of vegetables.

FitPro Heroes’ Cookies are lactose-free, shelf-stable protein cookies that deliver ingredients designed to support daily performance needs.

Moody’s Ice Cream is made by infusing ultra-premium ice cream with functional ingredients, adaptogens and herbalist blends to naturally boost mood and turn up the body’s own superpowers. 

Lucha Leche is a line of protein-rich yogurt drinks in Latin-inspired flavors and fortified with pre- and probiotics and no added sugars. 

Frutero Ice Cream is a line of premium Latin-inspired ice cream made with 100% real tropical fruits and creamy butterfat. 

Optimized Foods developed functional ice cream novelty bars that leverage innovative proprietary encapsulation technologies to deliver key functionally proven health ingredients with better taste and greater bioavailability.

Petit Pot developed a new indulgent chocolate dessert made with the organic, local ingredients. 

KetoBites Cheesecake Bites are a snackable and indulgent cheesecake treat that is high in protein and low in sugar and carbohydrates and packaged in a convenient yogurt-style cup.

Savory Entries:
Baozza is combines two of the most consumed foods in Asian and gen pop culture--bao buns and pizza.

WheyUp Probiotic Kefir Krisps are snack chips made from kefir with a one-year shelf life while maintaining the active probiotic cultures in a cheese yogurt snack.

Point Reyes Farmstead Whey Cool Kitchen Curd Cup is a mix-in, high-protein dairy snack.

Sach Foods Organic Paneer is a line of flavored artisanal paneer. 

Fahris Yoghurt Chips were inspired by a Mediterranean recipe that combines yogurt with crushed wheat and thyme. 

Saga Ventures Crispy Cheese Bar is a snacking option that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein for sustainable energy.  

Yummy Industries Cheese Bits are all-natural, fresh and wood-smoked scamorza and chechil cheeses, conveniently shaped and packaged for snacking fun. 

Enrich Protein is a Hispanic-style dairy snack chip containing innovative and novel enhanced dairy proteins to support greater health, body composition and exercise recovery. 

Through the Real California Milk Snackcelerator, the CMAB sought high-growth potential snack product concepts, with cow’s milk dairy as their first ingredient and making up at least 50% of their formula. The startups have committed to producing the product in California, with milk from California dairy farms, should they win the competition. The 16 startups accepted into the cohort are receiving $10,000 worth of support each to develop an edible prototype, while receiving a suite of resources including graphic design, lab or kitchen time and elite mentorship from global marketing, packaging and distribution experts. They also will receive additional services and support via industry leaders to help drive success of their new venture. 

Semi-finalists will compete in four virtual events on November 10 and 11 followed by a final virtual public pitch event for the “Final Four” November 19. (I am a judge!) The first-place winner will receive up to $200,000 worth of additional support and the second-place winner $100,000 worth of additional support to get their new product to market. The value of the competition prizing is over $800,000

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