Lifting the lid on lactose-free drinks and dairy alternatives in the Middle East

Lifting the lid on lactose-free drinks and dairy alternatives in the Middle East

To address issues surrounding lactose intolerance, milk allergies and the prevalence of hypercholesterolemia, the beverage industry is constantly seeking replacements that are healthy and profitable. Nandini Roy Choudhury, client partner of F&B at Future Market Insights, uncovers the latest developments in the dairy alternatives industry.

The number of consumers requesting vegan, plant-based and organic foods and beverages is increasing for a variety of reasons, including greater awareness of lactose intolerance, ethical and environmental concerns, and health considerations. To meet demand, the Middle East’s hospitality industry must provide organic, lactose-free and dairy-free dishes, and innovate around these trends.

The power of plant-based products
Two significant trends have been dominating the food sector that point toward innovation in the lactose-free and dairy-free product markets: plant-based and bakery foods. Plant-based, lactose-free and dairy-free products offer a convenient substitute to regular dairy without sacrificing on nutrients. Suppliers that promote plant-based foods as lactose-free dairy substitutes are aware of the need for fortification. Major companies operating in this space have increased their selection of plant-based dairy substitutes, including ice cream, condensed milk, non-dairy cheese and coffee creamers produced from oat, rice, soy, coconut and almonds. For instance, they emphasize that pea-based milk substitutes are fortified with vitamins A and D, and contain the same amount of calcium and protein as cow milk.

Baked solutions
Despite the focus on traditional dairy-based categories, like ice cream and frozen desserts, the bakery industry continues to make the most lactose-free claims. According to Future Market Insights, newly introduced bakery goods with lactose-free claims have increased by an average of 5.2 percent annually over the last five years. In contrast, only 0.6 percent of all newly introduced ice creams and desserts have made similar claims, with a growth rate of about 3.3 percent per year during the same period.

Some of the best lactose-free and dairy-free alternatives in the MEA region
To accelerate the introduction of plant-based substitutes that satisfy consumer preferences, new organic and natural components must be adopted while upholding the nutritional harmony of formulated goods. These may consist of:
Chia – combined with yogurt, cereal, juice, ice cream, water and smoothies. Omega 3 is abundant in chia seeds, supporting the immune system and aiding the regulation of cholesterol.
Sacha inchi – blended with organic flour, milk, smoothies, chocolate and other ingredients. Containing a high level of amino acids, up to 54 percent of important fatty acids (linoleic, linolenic, and oleic acids, referred to as Omega 3, 6, and 9), proteins (up to 29 percent) and vitamin E, this plant presents significant opportunities for the Middle East food sector over the coming years. Lucuma – has hints of caramel and maple.
Lucuma – has hints of caramel and maple. It can be used instead of flour and can be added to smoothies and juices. Significant amounts of minerals, carbs, vitamins, and fiber are present. Niacin (vitamin B3), calcium and antioxidants are all present in high concentrations in this low-glycemic sweetener with significant nutritional value.

Check the label
While choosing lactose-free and dairy free products, consumers should keep a few things in mind. First, the product formulas are important. Ingredients are noted on the label, so check for lactose or dairy mentions. When ordering products from cafes or restaurants, one can inquire directly about the presence of dairy compounds. Plant-based “dairy” products are mostly colloidal suspensions or emulsions made from dissolved, as well as disintegrated, plant matter. Utilizing protein isolates or concentrates, along with other components, including sugars, oils, salts, stabilizers and flavors, may be restored using the same dairy setup. In this way, you can have the same texture as dairy products but plant based.
Another important criterion is the nutritional content. Suppliers are expected to provide consumers with products with the same nutritional content as found in their dairy and lactose equivalents.

Brands to watch
The Middle East market for plantbased dairy is driven by the functional effectiveness and high sustainability promises made by such products. Consuming foods derived from animals increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity by raising fat, cholesterol and calorie levels. Thus, the market for plant-based dairy products is growing, as non-vegan consumers also turn to dairyfree foods and drinks. This increases the demand for dairy products made from soy, almond and oats.
For instance, Koita Foods introduced a new plant-based milk that is suitable for baristas. Coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk, almond-coconut mix and almond milk are the five types of milk that are offered by this company.
Some of the most popular methods used by firms competing in the Middle East dairy-alternative industry include product innovation and growth. The UAE-based food brand Freakin Healthy added a brandnew plant-based cheese spread to its lineup of healthier products. The company decided to broaden both its client base and its product offering in the lactose-free labeled, clean and ready-to-eat market with the introduction of a cheese spread that comes in four varieties. Similarly, Tres Marias, a coffee firm in the United Arab Emirates, introduced a new plant-based milk line of products, known as Oat Barista and Soy Barista.
While plant-based is considered “healthy,” commercial products vary greatly in their nutritional profiles, with some containing relatively low protein and only a few minerals. Manufacturers in the Middle East must take into account protein quantity and quality, as well as fortification, if these goods are to be considered as alternatives to cow milk, and regulatory authorities must standardize these factors.

Nandini Roy Choudhury,
client partner of F&B at Future Market Insights
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