Market research of lactose-free products

The market of lactose-free products is a dynamically growing segment of the dairy market. To better understand its characteristics, growth dynamics and preferences of consumers reaching for products without lactose, CIVITTA conducted an in-depth market research recently. We invite you to review the research results and detailed data.

Symptoms of milk intolerance are a common situation. It is estimated that around 20-35% of Poles face the problem. The cause may be a disorder of digestion and absorption of milk sugar – lactose, which is the basic ingredient of milk and dairy products. Lactose is also present in many products, where it is added to improve the taste or aesthetic properties. People affected by intolerance usually give up eating dairy products, depriving themselves of valuable nutrients contained in such products.

New nutritional trends

As much as 89 percent of Poles reach for products with or without a reduced sugar content, without lactose, gluten, derived from organic farming or dietary – this is the result of a study carried out by SW Research for Tesco Polska.

The constantly growing demand for such products is also confirmed by the sales data gathered by Tesco Polska – their sales in January 2016 compared to December 2015 increased by 25.2 percent.

The number of people who are struggling with intolerances of certain components of the diet is systematically growing. According to market research studies conducted on the Polish market, almost every fifth respondent (19%) using products without gluten, sugar or lactose does it for health reasons, because these products are an essential part of their diet.

It is worth noting, however, that 55 percent of the respondents reach for it because they want to improve their health and 25 percent thus diversifying the diet by trying new products. Among respondents who do not use this type of products, 28 percent wonders about giving up food containing gluten, sugar or lactose.

Dairy products market

The dairy products market in Poland is already mature. After years of dynamic growth, sales volumes have stabilised, but the values of sales driven by new consumer trends are growing. High demand for new products has allowed Polish market leaders to develop their product portfolios.

The dairy market is very prospective. In Poland, there is a lot of interest in both domestic and imported products. According to Euromonitor, forecasts assume an average annual growth of 1.5% in subsequent years, until 2021. In 2018, the dairy products market increased by 6% in the whole year (year-on-year).

Cheeses, kefirs, yoghurts, butter, milk desserts – all of the products are included in the dairy category which, according to the Statistics Poland (Główny Urząd Statystyczny), shows price increases of 5.9% when food in general increased by 4.6%. While the price of dairy products is rising, the demand for such products is not decreasing. On average, a Polish consumer eats five times a week different types of dairy products.

  • The kefir market is worth over 2.2 billion PLN and has grown by 6.5% in value and quantity over the year (2018).
  • The most popular among consumers is natural yoghurt which accounts for 88.1% of the market in terms of value.
  • The market of drinking yoghurts is worth over 551 million PLN, and the sales volume is over 72 million kilograms.

Lactose-free products market

Due to the new trends, producers develop their product catalogue. At present, one of the most nutritional trends is the consumption of lactose-free dairy products. The market of these products is relatively young and is still growing. It is estimated that in the near future, the share of lactose-free products may reach even 10% of the entire dairy market in Poland.

Poland’s lactose-free market is growing fast because of two major reasons:

  • More and more people are getting diagnosed with food intolerance or require special diets which result directly from an increase in their awareness. Euromonitor estimates that in Poland there are 2.3 million people with diabetes, which gives 6% of the population. And according to the Polish National Food and Nutrition Institute, there are between 7.6 and 14 million people with lactose intolerance.
  • There is a strong interest in lactose-free diets because many Poles are self-diagnosing or believe that following the diets will be beneficial for their health. Those lifestyle diet choices are reinforced by endorsements from local and global celebrities who declare that they feel better or lose weight after eliminating lactose.

According to Nielsen, the average price of lactose-free products is 10-20% higher than standard products, and their popularity is growing. This market presented a three-fold increase in value in 2016.

According to the survey conducted by FOCUS Research International, in 2017 the promotion of lactose-free products accounted for 2% of all dairy promotion in newsletters. One year later, this percentage was 2.8%. A significant increase also touched Cash & Carry outlets. The highest rise was presented in discount shops. The number of product promotions without lactose constituted around 4.5%.

Mlekovita – the leader in the dairy sector in Poland – has launched a full line of lactose-free products, including cheese, milk, butter, cottage cheese, and yoghurts. In principle, everything that can be produced from milk has its lactose-free equivalent in Mlekovita.

Mlekovita, Mlekpol, Lowicz OSM – the biggest Polish companies in the dairy sector – also noticed changing trends in the HoReCa market. Recently, they have been supplying the special products for the sector, e.g. milk used in professional café or sour cream for restaurants. However, they do not provide lactose-free products yet.

The largest retail stores in Poland have their brands of lactose-free products:

  • Lidl – Pilos “Bez laktozy”,
  • Tesco – “Free From”,
  • Kaufland – K-Classic “Bez laktozy”,
  • Auchan – Auchan “Mleko bez laktozy”.

Lactose-free vs reduced content of lactose

According to the opinion of the Main Sanitary Inspectorate, the maximum level of lactose in products marked as “without lactose” may amount to 0.01% or 10 mg lactose per 100 g of product. Manufacturers do not need to apply to this opinion. In the case of products with reduced lactose content, no legal guidelines are regulating the use of this wording on the packaging of dairy products.

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