A new word, nutrichondriac, has evolved to define the group of individuals who have a “preoccupation with negative details of one’s diet and a propensity to self-diagnose food intolerances or allergies based on supposition or flawed evidence.”
The word comes from research done by a London-based wellness genetics company that found that 45 percent of the study’s participants considered themselves intolerant to a food group, while only 15 percent had completed an allergy test or visited a doctor for confirmation. Of the 45 percent who considered themselves intolerant, one in three claimed lactose intolerance.
Much of the expanded demand for lactose-free and dairy-free products comes from these individuals who are diagnosed or claim to be lactose intolerant.
According to data from Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), lactose-free milk sales were 10.6 percent higher in the period from May 2017 to May 2018 compared to sales during the same time period a year earlier.
Those sales hit 138.7 million gallons for the 52-week period ending in May 2018, marking a 79 percent rise in lactose-free milk sales since 2002. Of course, there are more lactose-free milk options on store shelves now than ever before including products like Lactaid and Fairlife.
While a respectable number of consumers have turned to lactose-free dairy options, data shows more people have moved on to dairy alternatives. The newest numbers from the market research firm Mintel Group, shows that nondairy milk sales have grown 61 percent since 2012. In 2017, that accounted for more than $2 billion of sales dwarfing the $139 million spent on lactose-free alternatives.
While the growth in the lactose-free sector is encouraging, the ever-expanding consumer interest in food trends and fads demands even greater commitment to education, and a willingness to meet the consumer at the dairy case with a product they will purchase.