- Nestlé Health Science took a minority stake in Before Brands and acquired exclusive licensing rights to the brand's products outside the United States. Although no terms of the transaction were disclosed, Nestlé retains the option to purchase all remaining equity in Before Brands.
- Before Brands is the company behind SpoonfulOne, a product for infants and small children intended to reduce the risk of developing allergies to 16 foods. The technology used is based on research from Stanford University, training a child's immune system through consistent feeding.
- SpoonfulOne products are currently available online in the U.S. They will launch internationally in the second half of 2020.
The prevalence of food allergies has steadily been on the rise. Today, an estimated 11% of adults suffer from food allergies and that number is likely to grow, according to a new study in JAMA Network Open. Around a third of Americans with food allergies are children. In 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study showing food allergies among children increased by about 50% between 1997 and 2011.
The Swiss food giant is beginning to look more closely at preventing allergies in the first place rather than just developing products for consumers who need them. In 2016, the Swiss company invested in Aimmune, a food allergy biotech company that is developing a therapy to counteract peanut allergies in children and adolescents. Two years later, the CPG giant, through its Nestlé Health Science arm, increased its investment to $273 million, or 18.9% of the company.
Nestlé is also in the allergen-free food space, which has seen a boost because of clean-label and non-GMO trends. It produces Nestlé Toll House Simply Delicious Morsels, which only contain cocoa butter, cane sugar and chocolate. But it's far from the only big food company there. Mondelez owns Enjoy Life Foods, which doesn't use 14 common allergens in its extensive line of snack products — including wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, casein, soy, egg, sesame, sulfites, lupin, mustard, fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
If the strategy of preventing allergies is successful, it will likely be years before it affects the size of the allergy -friendly market. This will help protect Nestlé’s investment in products like Simply Delicious Morsels. It might even call more consumers’ attention to the brand for its work in allergy prevention and persuade those who are living with allergies to try Nestlé products as a sign of investment in the company’s efforts.
Long-term for Nestlé, a lower prevalence of food allergies is likely to be beneficial for the bottom line. Becoming certified allergen-free can be a headache for manufacturers, requiring more paperwork and tons of testing — both of which come with a price tag. In some cases, it can even require separate manufacturing facilities, which could easily become an expensive undertaking with eight major allergens — and likely soon to be a ninth with the addition of sesame — on the Food and Drug Administration's list.
SpoonfulOne intends to help minimize the proliferation of these allergies in children by introducing them to the top 16 allergens early in life through a formulated blend that can be added to foods. The product is made to be fed to infants beginning at 4-6 months, and would be continued through young childhood.
With this investment, Nestlé will help expand the production and distribution of the product. With exclusive distribution rights outside of the U.S. and the option to purchase the rest of the company, it's likely the Swiss giant is thinking ahead about how it can integrate this allergy-prevention product into some of its baby formula products like Althéra, Alfaré and Alfamino, which are specifically formulated for babies showing signs of milk and other ingredient intolerances.