The growing demand for lactose-free products is an opportunity for the cheese and dairy market
Lactose intolerance is a disorder that affects more and more people. According to Humanitas’ estimates, about 50% of the Italian population suffers from it.
The rise of lactose intolerance, which can manifest itself in symptoms of variable severity, has led to an increase in the demand – and consequently the offer – of foods that are free of it.
The rise of lactose-free foods
Data reported by Future Market Insights show that the lactose-free market is the fastest growing in the dairy industry at a global level: it is expected to have an annual growth rate of 8.4% over the next 10 years.
In Italy, this is the second most relevant market in the sector of products catered to those with food intolerances, preceded only by “gluten-free.”
According to the data emerging from a report by Osservatorio Immagino, 2,560 products are labelled as “lactose-free”. In 2022, these products saw a +2.1% growth in volume and an increase of +12.1% in value, surpassing the 1.8-billion-euro sell-out share. Among the best performers are cheese and yogurt.
On the other hand, the results of the “lactose-free” claim are quite different as those products registered a sharp decline in volume (-7.2%). This last figure sends us a rather clear signal: those who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to lactose do not want to give up milk or foods containing it but prefer to buy “lactose free” products.
Not just the lactose intolerant: who is buying “lactose-free” products
Lactose intolerance is the main, but not the sole reason for choosing to follow a lactose-free diet.
Consumers include those who have a certified intolerance (and therefore buy them out of necessity), those who consider themselves “sensitive” to lactose, and those who choose lactose-free products because they see them as a healthier or more digestible alternative.
The health aspect is therefore the common denominator for these consumers.
Our lactose-free cheeses
Our fresh ricotta and our “Free-sca” cheese are two lactose-free products of our dairy factory. We make them with the same milk we use for our traditional cheeses: fresh high-quality milk from small local farms.
The difference is that this milk is delactosed. This process consists in breaking down the lactose molecule into its two components: galactose and glucose, which are easily digested.
The food safety of our lactose-free cheeses is ensured by the separation of the production processes.
We have chosen to focus on a soft cheese – our caciotta Free-sca – and a fresh dairy product – ricotta – because lactose intolerance is mainly linked to fresh cheeses. Aged cheeses, and particularly those aged over 12 months, are better tolerated because the amount of lactose in the cheese gradually decreases during aging.
Our experience and the technologies we have implemented into our dairy allow us to offer products that meet the same standards as classic ones, both in taste and texture.
We will continue to invest in these directions to increasingly meet consumer needs and preferences and offer quality dairy products to those who want to take advantage of lactose-free alternatives.