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Rise in food allergies consolidate a new market for the food industry

February 17, 2023

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By definition, a food allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a certain component present in a particular food. The body incorrectly identifies a protein as harmful, which triggers a series of unpleasant reactions – which can include bloating, rashes, stomach pains and diarrhea, among other symptoms.

Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, nuts and wheat account for about 90% of all food allergies. It is estimated that over 220 million people worldwide are allergic to these foods, and they affect between 6% and 8% of children under three years of age, and 2% to 3% of adults. In addition, allergic manifestations are increasingly frequent among the elderly as well.

The only treatment for individuals with food allergies is to restrict the intake of foods with potential allergens, as well as to have access to clear information on product labels.

What causes this rise in allergies?

Epidemiological studies show an increased prevalence of food allergies worldwide. 

Environmental and nutritional changes have given rise to new food allergy syndromes in recent years.

Technology as an ally

It is worth remembering that, to date, no cure for food allergies is known – although disruptive technologies may offer some help in the future. Researchers at the University of Queensland were able to ‘turn off’ the immune response that causes an allergic reaction in animals with the help of specific gene therapy. CRISPR (Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), which is a genomic editing technique, has also been disclosed as a technology capable of generating a non-allergenic peanut – but this is far from reaching the consumer public. 

At present, digital technologies can offer help to effectively manage food allergies. Both in the field of offering biotechnology, such as CRISPR, improved diagnosis (immunodiagnostics) or bioinformatics, through applications that detect or scan the product code and thus inform the presence of the allergen. 

A market with estimated growth

According to Euromonitor data, between 2020 and 2022 sales of allergen free products grew by 3%. By 2026, they are expected to total 11.8% in growth. 

According to a survey by McKinsey on 1,552 people, one in three consumers are willing to spend on superior quality products. The surveys also reveal that this audience considers not just the ingredients, flavor and price, but also the reliability of the brand. 

The trend is for smaller, antiallergenic brands to be much more reliable. Therefore, a strategy that can be adopted by large industries is to instruct and attract this class of buyers, presenting themselves as reliable and open to these types of foods.

In the food market, it is possible to find several products aimed at consumers with food allergies. Here are some examples:

The world's leading gluten free food company was founded to serve consumers with celiac disease. The brand has several options of certified gluten free products, such as breads, pasta, cookies, cakes, chocolates, blends and more. A major advantage of the brand is the certification of zero risk of contamination of the products.
This brand owns the largest antiallergenic bakery in North America, with gluten free facilities certified by the Gluten Free Certification Organization. It offers several types of products such as chocolates, cookies, snacks and brownies, all gluten free and 14 allergens: wheat, peanuts, nuts, dairy, casein, soy, egg, sesame, mustard, lupini beans, added sulfites, fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
The brand offers several flavors of pastes without the top 10 allergens, including nuts, wheat, soy, dairy and sesame. The pastes were created with the mission of placing safe and inclusive spreads in school lunchboxes in Australia, a country that has one of the highest rates of food allergies in the world, leading to strict policies in schools across the country. 
YumEarth focuses on antiallergenic products and all are free of the nine major allergens. Most are also vegan, gluten free, GMO-free and free of artificial dyes. Recently, the brand released Choco Yums, a new variety of non-dairy and antiallergenic chocolate bonbons. The sweets are made using fair trade cocoa and are available in three flavors – Chocolate, Crisped Quinoa and Dark Chocolate Mint.
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Launched by Danone in the UK, Marty's is an antiallergenic brand of children's snacks, which includes chickpea fries and milk-free frozen desserts. The brand is represented by the character Marty, an alien who lives on the planet Zaddja and searches the universe for antiallergenic foods. The site includes the Marty's Allergy Card feature, which allows parents and children to create and print their own personalized allergy card, including their allergies and contact information, which can be clipped to a bag or taken with them.

Consumers with food allergies or intolerances presented a loyalty profile due to the difficulty in relying on new products. However, many have expressed dissatisfaction with what is available on the market, according to the survey by McKinsey, about 30% say they are always looking for new options. Therefore, they are very willing to spend more on higher quality products, which allows the insertion of new brands. 

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