Food allergy incidence has been rising in the EU, with around 3.9 per cent of children suffering from an allergy - although allergies often become less severe or disappear in adulthood. The 12 major allergens recognised in Europe are: cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, nuts, soybeans, milk, celery, mustard, sesame, and sulphur dioxide (at levels of over 10mg/kg).
The potential lies not just in catering to consumers with allergies and intolerances themselves: a retailer or a brand with a broad offering will also attract food spends from other members in the same household.
Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) lists 2628 new gluten-free product launches in the UK between 2006 and 2010, with annual figures more than doubling over this period to from 317 to 696.
Spain was the next most prolific market, with 1444 gluten-free launches listed over the period, followed by 1348 in Germany. Italy and France had 698 and 548 launches listed respectively.
As for launches of products marketed as allergen-free (categorised by Mintel as ‘no/low/reduced allergens’ but not broken out by specific allergens), the UK has 3010 launches listed, followed by Germany with 1799, Spain 1590, Italy 923, and France 705.
For products marketed as no/low/reduced lactose, Germany is streets ahead with 897 launches listed between 2006 and 2010. Spain had 300 listed, the UK 295, Italy 282, and France 248.
While the general trend is for increasing launches in the gluten-free, no/low/reduce allergy, and no/low/reduced lactose categories, the data from Mintel do show some anomalies.
In particular 2007 was a peak year for launches across all three marketing claims in France, with 101 gluten-free products, 153 allergen-free, and 91 no/low/reduced lactose.
However this is in keeping with the trend across all packaged and prepared foods carrying marketing claims in the country. Mintel listed a total of 7259 in 2007, dropping to 6483 in 2008 and 5953 in 2009. In 2010, 7252 are listed.
This pattern may be linked to the impact of the economic climate on new product development.
Despite dropping to 90 launches in 2008, gluten-free has since surpassed 2007 launch levels in France to reach 130 in 2010; allergen-free foods have also rebounded to reach 155 in 2010. Lactose-free launches fell back to 39 in 2008 and have remained at around that level since, which may indicate an unusual flurry of launches in 2007.
Data for this article was provided by Mintel Global New Products Database. http://www.foodnavigator.com/smartlead/view/208088/4/Mintel