Lactose-free dairy niche targets the mainstream
18/07/2012 - Global launch numbers for lactose-free dairy products more than tripled in the five-year period to the beginning of 2012, according to Innova Market Insights, with their share of total dairy introductions rising from less than 2.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent over the same period.
Levels of interest and consequent new product activity have been particularly high in the USA and Western Europe, which saw products marketed as lactose-free account for ten per cent and six per cent of total dairy launches, respectively, in the 12 months to the end of March 2012.
According to Lu Ann Williams, research manager for Innova Market Insights, interest in dairy alternatives, improved labelling, growing awareness of the potential problems associated with lactose intolerance and technological developments that have allowed the production of better-tasting products have combined to boost the availability of lactose-free dairy products in recent years.
This sector is now trying to emerge from a specialist niche positioning to increase its appeal to a wider audience in the mass market.
The highest share of lactose-free products tends to be in sectors where there are already established dairy alternatives, particularly drinks, where the share of products marketed as lactose free was over 30 per cent.
Creamers, many of which already have non-dairy ingredients such as vegetable fats, can also relatively easily be formulated as lactose free, and this type of product accounted for over nine per cent of introductions in the sub-sector.
In more traditional dairy markets, such as milk drinks, yoghurt and cheese, penetration of lactose-free launches tended to be between two per cent and four per cent.
There have been lactose-free ranges available for some time, but until recently these tended to focus more on the specialist dietetic market. Recent product activity recorded by Innova Market Insights indicates that some of these brands are now moving more mainstream and extending into new product sectors both within and outside the dairy category.
These include OBM Omira's Minus L range in Germany, Arla's Lactofree in the UK, Valio's Zero Lactose in Scandinavia and McNeil's Lactaid in the USA. The development of own-brand ranges by the leading retailers has also driven awareness in the market.
In many countries most of the major multiple chains, including discounters, now have their own free-from ranges, including lactose-free options, which are rapidly increasing in number and scope.
Perhaps most significant in terms of market development, however, has been the arrival of lactose-free options from mainstream brands.
In the USA, General Mills' market-leading Yoplait yoghurt brand was extended with four lactose-free variants in early 2012, while Danone's market-leading Activia yoghurt brand has now been extended with a lactose-free option in a number of European markets, including Germany and Scandinavia.
Likewise, in New Zealand, the Anchor dairy brand has been extended in the milks market, with two lactose-free alternatives under the Zero Lacto Blue and Zero Lacto Trim ranges.
According to Williams, this increasing presence of lactose-free options in the mainstream dairy markets under familiar brands from well known companies can only serve to drive the market further forward, not only in the dairy sector, but in the food and drinks market as a whole.
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