The Business of Allergies

Recent research has indicated that the global market for food allergies and food intolerances will reach $26 billion by 2017 (“Global food allergy”, 2012).  The growth in the market is being caused by an increase in demand for allergen free products.  The increase in demand has been caused primarily by an increase in the number of people affected by dietary restrictions and their growing need for varied food choices.

Mo' Allergies, Mo' Products.

Mo’ Allergies, Mo’ Products.

The growth in the market has provided a valuable opportunity for many companies through the release of various products that have allergen free statements. It is no mystery why many companies are sporting the “peanut free” label or are sprawling “lactose free” across their milk cartons to attract the allergy conscious market. However there is a more interesting discussion to be had regarding the way in which companies are seizing opportunities from the increase in demand for allergy free products.

Besides the obvious business opportunities stated above, a more diverse array of companies are trying to profit from the surge in the number of people affected by food allergies.  Many restaurants have an allergy menu that charts which dishes are made using various allergens.  At the very least a majority of restaurants are including the above information on their web page.  As more companies begin accommodating allergies, it is putting pressure on other companies to do the same.  Effectively, it is my belief that providing allergy information to consumers is becoming an industry standard rather than a competitive edge.  Apps such as iCanEatOntheGo are allowing customers to refine searches to “only restaurants that are allergen safe” and websites such as Allerdine.com allows customers to rate restaurants on their allergy–friendliness.  The emergence of social media is causing restaurants to come under increasing pressure to become more aware of their customer’s food restrictions.

The Chicago Cubs are displaying one of the most unique forms of “allergen free” marketing.  The company has recently implemented its “peanut-safe zone”.  The idea involves a skybox equipped with medicine, non-allergen snacks and a nurse on hand. Wrigley Stadium charges $50 per skybox ticket and has 100’s of families on a waiting list to buy a ticket (Parekh, 2010).

In the United States the number of individuals suffering from food allergies or intolerances has grown by 18% over the past decade (Parekh, 2010).  With the emergence of social media and word of mouth marketing, it appears that accommodating this portion of the population is becoming somewhat of a necessity for companies whose primary business is food.  As the allergic and intolerant market grows, companies are innovating more creative ways to help them eat safely. I for one welcome the competition and continued innovation as it helps not just individual businesses, but rather entire industries become more allergy aware.

Global food allergy and intolerance products. (2012, 12 10). Retrieved from http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/4/prweb8310957.htm

Parekh, R. (2010). Market for food-allergy-friendly businesses more than peanuts. Advertising Age, 81(36), 32-32. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/759995012?accountid=13631

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