Have you noticed an increase in products that are "gluten-free" or "allergen-friendly" at your local supermarket? Or that major commercial brands are jumping to the free-from food fray? For example, Rice Chex now has a gluten-free version, and Anheuser-Busch has introduced a gluten-free beer (they use sorghum as the primary ingredient, instead of the traditional wheat, rye, barley and malt).
This is good news for those of us that suffer from food allergies and food intolerances or for those of us that have loved ones that do. Not only has the FDA food allergen label law helped many of us decipher what products would be potentially dangerous for us to consume but, according to at least two trend watching groups, the specialty food marketplace is growing rapidly.
"Marketing to the food-sensitive has become so widespread that the Girl Scouts now sell three kinds of milk-free cookies...and Kellogg's makes Pop-Tarts in nut-free factories," reports The Washington Post.
The story continues: "The market for food allergy and intolerance products is projected to reach $3.9 billion this year, according to Packaged Facts, a New York research firm. And the market for gluten-free foods and drinks is expected to hit $1.3 billion by 2010, up from $700 million in 2006, according to research firm Mintel."
The facts: "An estimated 12 million people in the United States have food allergies, and another 2 million have celiac disease, a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks itself when exposed to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Those figures are expected to rise. The number of children with peanut allergies alone has doubled in the past decade. Food-induced anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction, causes about 30,000 emergency room visits and 150 to 200 deaths annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta."
What do you think? Do you think there should be more commercially available products for the food allergic/food intolerant/ community?
Personally, I hope that allergy-friendly specialty foods are not merely a trend like low carb but will change underlying manufacturing processes for the better for everyone. I'd also like to see more whole food nutrition and dietary education happening on the school level so children and communities learn about other low-cost, whole food options that do not rely on packaged, processed foods which are inherently multi- allergen laden. (Think of your favorite bread, cereal, pizza, pasta dish and you will be thinking of wheat, dairy, eggs and soy -- four of the "Big 8" food allergens.)
Published On: July 08, 2008