Allergy-free products proliferate

Some 36 million Americans or one in six adults (16 percent), claim to suffer from either a food allergy or intolerance, according to a report by Mintel International.

Half of these sufferers felt their symptoms were serious enough to consult a doctor. Women (at 20 percent) are considerably more likely than men (just 13 percent) to suffer from allergies or to be food intolerant.

One in three Americans have looked for information about food allergies and intolerance in the past six months alone, and the most popular source of information was food labels (24 percent). Forty-four percent of sufferers say their allergy or intolerance “always” affects their eating habits, with 23 percent claiming that it “usually” does.

In 2004 the total “free-from” market was worth just more than $1 billion. Within this market, retail sales of gluten-free products were worth approximately $450 million, with retail sales of egg-free products valued at some $18 million. The largest sector was the portion of the soy-based food and drink market that resulted from food allergy or intolerance (i.e. the lactose-free market). This sector amounted to $540 million.

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