Insights From the Food Allergy Consumer Journey
August 18, 2020
This summer, FARE released a study that takes a look at the food allergy consumer experience, including their purchase behaviors, and the challenges they face along the way.
While many of us know that food allergies affect 32 million Americans, what you may not know is that 1 in 4 Americans — or 85 million people — avoid buying food products that contain the “Top 9” allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, eggs, milk, soy, and sesame). 😲
Further, the study found that this population — the “food allergy consumer” — spends upwards of $19 billion annually on food products that keep their families healthy and safe. Because of this, one of the takeaways from the report is the value of accurate and clear food allergen labeling.
Below are four additional takeaways from the paper:
1. THE FOOD ALLERGY CONSUMER IS LOYAL AND SPENDS MORE ON FOOD.
Food allergy consumers are a highly-engaged consumer group. Because food safety is so important to them, they often buy premium products and are loyal to products they trust. On average, these premium buyers spend 5% more on groceries per month. They tend to be cautious with trying new foods; however, they are always open to looking for new, safe products!
2. THE “ALTERNATIVE” PRODUCT CATEGORY IS GROWING.
The Top 9 allergen “alternative” food market is growing rapidly. When we talk about alternatives, think swapping cow’s milk for oat or almond milk, or wheat-based pasta for gluten-free pasta. Although the dairy-free and gluten-free markets have dominated the allergen alternatives market in the past, other Top 9 allergen alternative products are on the rise at 27% over the past 4 years.
3. PACKAGE LABELING CAN BE CONFUSING AND FRUSTRATING.
Because there is a lot of ambiguity around food allergen labeling (think “may contain,” or “processed in a shared facility with…” warnings), grocery shopping can be stressful, to say the least. 53% of study respondents cited food labels as problematic, and 71% of food allergy consumers reported reading the labels of every single item they purchase, which can take 3 — 5 minutes on average per label. Yikes!
As a result, consumers tend to trust smaller, dedicated allergen-friendly brands. Food allergy consumers cited trust as a top-three factor when buying a product, and the leading reason for purchasing the exact same product again and again.
Clearly, there is a large, unmet need for big food companies to better engage and satisfy the needs of this customer segment.
4. THERE’S A LARGE UNCAPTURED MARKET OPPORTUNITY FOR FOOD MANUFACTURERS.
According to the study, 6% of food allergic and intolerant households avoid entire categories of food because of an allergy. For example, think breads, snacks, or frozen foods. These consumers would likely spend within that category if they KNEW there were products that are safe for their family.
If these consumers were to enter that product category and spend what the average consumer does within the category, this would represent a $10 billion market opportunity for food manufacturers. Sounds like a good incentive to get that label streamlined, don’t you think? 🤔
We’re grateful for the research that gives our community a voice and a CHOICE when it comes to the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones. We hope this study ignites a spark among food manufacturers and regulators that turns into a brightly-shining flame for the food allergy community.
The study was commissioned by FARE — a leading food allergy advocacy organization. The research was carried out by McKinsey & Company, Northwestern University, and Global Strategy Group.