As U.S. Food Allergies Rise, So Do Opportunities for Food Companies

Food allergies are taking a toll on the U.S.

Approximately 32 million Americans have some type of food allergy, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

“In the years ahead, the need to accommodate specialty diets and specific food restrictions will only grow, especially as increasing numbers of people are diagnosed with autoimmune conditions, gut issues and other chronic conditions,” Alysa Seeland, the CEO of FOND Bone Broth, told The Food Institute, citing the prevalence of nutrient-poor foods and climate concerns as driving factors.

With that, food allergies are the primary topic of this month’s Food Institute report, available to members on Tuesday (to join FI, click here).

What’s especially eye-opening is that both Gen Z and millennials are becoming more restrictive in their diets. The number who describe their diets as “unrestricted” fell between 2019 and 2021 – from 66% to 58% among Gen Z and from 64% to 57% among millennials, reported the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

MaryLeigh Bliss, the chief content officer of YPulse, told IFT that the number of young adults who describe their diets as gluten-free, dairy free, carb-free, vegetarian, or pescatarian has also increased in recent years.

Childhood food allergies alone cost the U.S. $24.8 billion annually, with the cost per child equaling $4,184, according to the Allergy & Asthma Network.

Milk is the most common allergen for children, followed by egg and peanut, according to the AAFA. Meanwhile, shellfish is the most common allergen among adults, followed by peanut and tree nut.

The Allergy & Asthma Network noted that 45.3% of adults with food allergies are allergic to multiple foods.

Food companies seeking to accommodate customers with food restrictions should, first and foremost, focus on offering variety, considering the relative scarcity of allergen-free products available.

“Variety is essential,” said Hector Gutierrez, CEO of JOI, a plant-milk delivery service. “Restaurants and stores that offer reasonably priced products for various dietary restrictions will thrive, because they cater to more people.

“Offer different options, make them all delicious, and customers will flock to your door,” he added.