Lactose is an important raw material used in many food and pharmaceutical products. Alpha, alpha monohydrate and amorphous lactose are among the most common forms of the material and were used for this study. The crystalline nature of the starting material can ultimately affect the production process and the quality of the final product. The Fourier transform near-infrared (FT-NIR) spectra of these three major forms are substantially different from one another making characterization straightforward. This makes FT-NIR an excellent candidate for use as a routine tool for this type of analysis. FT-NIR has the added benefits of being fast and easy to use. Measurements can be made to be essentially operator independent, allowing non-technical personnel to conduct standard testing in the receiving or production areas. The success of the FT-NIR method with lactose suggests that other materials can be similarly characterized.