- Allergy-free foods have moved from specialty item to mainstream in a short amount of time, according to Prepared Foods. Gluten-free and lactose-free claims have had an especially strong presence.
- Market drivers are identified as an increased variety of high-quality, allergen-free products on the market and improved label practices, making it easier for consumers to find these alternative products.
- Ingredient intolerance is no longer the sole reason shoppers turn to allergy-free food. Many consumers are now choosing foods and beverages without allergens with the belief that they will help their digestive health, weight management and overall well-being.
Judging from the number of new allergy-free products introduced to the market this past year, one might suspect that consumers with an intolerance for items such as peanuts, gluten, dairy or have sky-rocketed. In reality, only 2% of US adults and 5% of infants and young children have food allergies, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The eight major allergens, which represent 90% of all documented food allergies, include milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. Many consumers who don’t have a food intolerance still try to avoid many of these ingredients, and food manufacturers are eager to meet their demand.
Gluten-free claims have proven they have staying power, representing 22% of new products introduced to the U.S. market in the last year ending in May 2017. Surprisingly, the dairy category represented the largest share of gluten-free products, with snacks a close second. Most milk and dairy products are naturally gluten-free, so it’s no extra trouble for manufacturers to just add a label promoting this status.
The snack markets was the second most popular space to find gluten-free claims. Once again, common ingredients in this sector such as potatoes, corn, soy and nuts are already free from gluten. These ingredients, along with dairy, are benefiting from the continuing gluten-free trend.
Lactose-free and dairy-free claims also have risen in popularity. General Mills and DanoneWave now both offer lactose-free options. General Mills’ Yoplait brand has multiple lactose-free varieties, and DanoneWave’s Activia probiotic yogurt brand recently introduced four lactose-free options. Frozen desserts, and ice cream in particular, also are seeing increased interest and growth in dairy-free choices.
Many grocers have started adding more shelf space for allergy-free products. Some devote an entire section to the category, while others use key markers to point out these CPGs throughout the store. Some stores, including Harmon’s in Salt Lake City, offer in-store help from dedicated dieticians. If a consumer learns they suffer from Celiac disease, or simply want to cut out certain allergens, they can take a tour of the store with one of these dieticians to see what products are safe for them to eat.
Considering the strong interest in allergy-free food, struggling CPGs may want to consider branching out to this category. In addition, food manufacturers who already make gluten-free, dairy-free or nut-free foods may want to modify their labeling and advertising to more prominently promote the fact they’re allergy-free.