U.S. Dairy Products > Lactose

Functional Properties

Lactose provides numerous functional benefits to food formulators. It is soluble, has a low level of sweetness, and enhances color, flavor and texture-and that's just the beginning. The table below highlights the key functions of lactose:

Browning Agent Accentuates color development during cooking and baking Bakery products
Bulking Agent Provides volume and weight with low sweetness Coffee whiteners
Carrier Remains free-flowing in high temperature and high relative humidity High-intensity sweeteners 
Flavors and seasonings 
Dry mixes
Color Retention Strong tendency to absorb natural and synthetic colors results in savings in ingredient costs Snacks
Microwaveable products
Controls Mold Growth Helps extend shelf life naturally, without chemical mold inhibitor Baked goods
Fermentation Substrate Improves flavor and texture Yogurt
Yogurt beverages
Flavor Development Contributes to the development of toasted flavors Baked goods 
Confectionery products
Flavor Retention Renders many flavors more distinguishable to taste to maintain flavor quality in food products Baked goods
All-natural products
Flow Agent Keeps products from caking, improves flow properties and dispersability Dry mixes
Hygroscopicity Alpha-monohydrate form is non-hygroscopic and remains free flowing in high temperatures and high relative humidity 
Supersatured solutions of lactose may exist in non-crystalline forms termed "lactose glass" or "amorphous lactose," which are very hygroscopic, and preserve moisture and tenderness in baked goods and confections
Dry mixes
Dry soup and sauce mixes 
Baked goods 
Confectionery products
Particle Size Often listed by mesh size, with 30, 80, 100 and 200 mesh as common products Finer particle size: icings, compound coatings, dry mix beverages/Medium to larger particle sizes: baked products, infant formula, coffee creamers, canned and frozen foods, frozen desserts
Reduces Sweetness Provides carbohydrates without excessive sweetness to meet consumer taste profile without being too sweet Icings, Savory fillings
Shelf Life Extension Helps preserve moistness and tenderness of products Baked goods
Tableting Excipient Can be compressed directly without the preliminary step of wet granulation; allows use of high-speed tablet machines Drugs and nutritional supplements, Confectionery products
Texture Agent Crystal formation can be controlled to help create the desired texture Confectionery products
Water Binding Retards moisture loss, minimizes syneresis Dairy products, Baked goods