- Childhood food allergy prevention startup Ready, Set, Food raised $3.5 million in a funding round led by new investor Edward-Elmhurst Health. Returning investors include Danone’s corporate venture arm Danone Manifesto Ventures, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, and AF Ventures (formerly AccelFoods). The funding comes less than a year after Ready, Set Food raised $3 million in July.
- Ready, Set, Food offers what it describes as a complete early allergen introduction system for nine common allergens: almonds, cashews, eggs, milk, peanuts, sesame, soy, walnuts and wheat. The company claims to have worked with over 20,000 families to date. It recently launched the third stage of its early allergen introduction system for babies eating solid foods.
- More than half of consumers are impacted by food allergies, according to research from allergy-friendly brand That's It using the Suzy marketing research platform. Food Allergy Research & Education estimates 32 million people in the U.S. have food allergies — just under 10% of the total population.
The prevalence of food allergies is increasing, including in children. About 8% of U.S. children have a food allergy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reactions are also becoming more severe, with the number of people requiring emergency treatment for a food allergy surging 377% between 2007 and 2016, according to research from FAIR Health.
Given that such a large segment of the population deals with food allergies either directly or indirectly, Ready, Set, Food’s program has a massive addressable market. This makes it an appealing investment target for its newest investor, Edward-Elmhurst Health, a large integrated health system based in Illinois. The healthcare network has a waiting roster of potential users for the system through its patient base. And with more consumers focusing on the intersection of diet and wellness, offering a food-based allergy prevention program could become a big hit.
CPG-focused investor AF Ventures and Danone Manifesto Ventures also stand to benefit from preventing food allergies before they start so consumers aren’t limited in their food choices. Consumer demand for allergen-free products is growing, which means manufacturers need to reformulate their products, start manufacturing them in an allergen-free facility, or simply lose out on consumers who do not buy products with specific ingredients. All three of these options come with steep price tags for food manufacturers. The nine allergens that must be specifically labeled on all U.S. food products — milk, egg, soy, peanut, tree nut, wheat, fish, shellfish and newly added sesame — are fairly common ingredients in a wide variety of foods.
"We look forward to continuing to work with their team as they take additional steps to advance their mission, including the launch of new products, on-the-ground healthcare partner work, donation programs and more,” Holly Jackson, ventures director of Danone Manifesto Ventures, said in the statement announcing the funding.
Danone has been on a mission to invest in high-growth potential startups in the health and wellness space, and food allergies has been prominent in this effort. In 2019, it launched Marty’s, a brand geared toward children with food allergies in the U.K.
With physicians and parents at the helm of the company, Ready, Set, Food’s says its goal is to reduce the risk of a child developing a food allergy by 80%. Its approach to early allergen introduction has been backed up by clinical trials and was recently reinforced in a study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open. Some of its products include Peanut Only and Peanut + Egg early allergen introduction systems, designed to help children already diagnosed with allergies to these foods.
The startup is gaining notoriety for its approach to allergy prevention. It recently won an innovation award as part of Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s Next in Natural’s QuickFire Challenge for the Children’s Wellness category. The award earns the company a $50,000 grant, mentorship from J&J, and a one-year residency at its JLABS global ecosystem.
Although Ready, Set, Food is currently focused on food allergies in babies, the company’s growing list of strategic investors and participation in JLABS could position it to develop additional food allergy-related offerings.
It has some competition in the food allergy introduction space, including companies like SpoonfulONE and Lil Mixins. Other major food companies are taking steps to tackle food allergies. Last year, Nestlé acquired biopharmaceutical company Aimmune Therapeutics in a deal valuing the company at roughly $2.6 billion. Aimmune developed a therapy to help children reduce their allergic reaction to peanuts through small exposures.