DSM, The Netherlands, published a paper in December investigating the reasons behind rising yogurt consumption in China. The report provides new insights into how health-conscious, lactose-intolerant Chinese consumers are embracing this dairy food.

Based on a survey carried out in countries as varied as China, United States, Brazil and Turkey, the results reveal that perceived gut health benefits and added probiotics are driving significantly higher yogurt demand in China than the other countries surveyed. Moreover, improving digestibility would result in even further increases in Chinese yogurt consumption.

The paper is part of the DSM Global Insight Series and focuses on the main drivers of yogurt consumption in China — a significant emerging market for dairy manufacturers. It reveals the importance of probiotics as the driver of purchase, as eight out of 10 Chinese consumers actively seek a product containing this added ingredient. The survey also shows that the rising yogurt consumption is heavily influenced by Chinese consumers embracing a healthy lifestyle and their belief that yogurt is good for their overall gut health. 76% of Chinese consumers choose yogurt for its gut health benefits compared to an average of 48% in the other markets surveyed including United States, Brazil, Turkey, Poland and France.

Digestibility is also cited by Chinese consumers as the key reason to further increase their consumption of yogurt. If it was “easier-to-digest” Chinese consumers who have not increased their consumption of this dairy food over the last three years, report that they would eat more yogurt. Digestibility, as a barrier to increased consumption, is more pronounced in China — where up to 95% of the population may be lactose intolerant — than in other countries surveyed.

“We see that lactose-free and low-lactose dairy is increasingly popular in China. Lactose-free dairy is perceived to be healthier than regular yogurt and addresses the gut-conscious consumers looking for ‘easy-to-digest’ dairy foods,” said Merel Roes, global marketing manager Maxilact at DSM Food Specialties. “Our survey reveals that Chinese consumers, buying lactose-free, are eating more yogurt than three years ago, compared to the overall Chinese consumers surveyed. They would also increase their consumption if there were more lactose-free options available. This is a great opportunity for the lactose-free yogurt segment.”

 DSM’s ingredients portfolio is responding to consumer demand for “easy-to-digest” products by a platform of digestive aid ingredients including lactases like Tolerase L for use in dietary supplements for lactose-intolerant people, Maxilact for lactose-free or low-lactose dairy and different cultures, including probiotics, to help deliver differentiated and easy-to-digest yogurts.