Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retailers eat up sales in food-allergy supplements

Sales growth data suggest that consumers are seeking a solution to food allergies through natural remedies. Food sensitivities can manifest in a number of ways ranging from intolerances to allergies. A food allergy is an immune-system response that occurs when the body mistakes a food ingredient as harmful and creates a defense system to fight it. The most common food allergies include peanuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy products and wheat. A food intolerance occurs when something in a food irritates a person's digestive system or when a person is unable to properly break down certain foods.

Many factors may contribute to food intolerance. In some cases, as with lactose intolerance, the person lacks the chemical enzymes necessary to properly digest certain proteins found in food. Also common are intolerances to some chemical ingredients, such as monosodium glutamate, added to food to provide color, enhance taste and protect against the growth of bacteria. Other sources of intolerance include sulfites, which may occur naturally, as in red wines, or may be added to prevent the growth of mold, and salicylates, a group of plant chemicals found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, juices, beer and wine.

Lifestyle changes are imperative in treating symptoms caused by food sensitivities. In addition to avoiding foods that trigger a negative reaction, multivitamin and mineral supplementation can play an important role in maintaining a healthy and symptom-free life. Evidence suggests that certain ingredients, including probiotics, digestive enzymes, quercetin, betaine HCL, oregano and thymus extract may alleviate some of the symptoms caused by food allergies and intolerance. These ingredients, as both single products and primary ingredients in combination formulas, are tracked by SPINS in a Food Allergy Health Condition segment that includes products associated with key primary ingredients as well as those specifically marketed for dealing with food allergies.

Cross-channel retail sales of food-allergy items reached $155 million and grew 17 percent versus one year ago for the most recent 52 weeks (ending Dec. 1, 2007). Food-allergy products are marketed across six categories; however, the digestive aids and enzymes category represents more than 96 percent of total segment cross-channel sales. Products in the vitamins and minerals category generate the second-highest dollar volume in natural supermarkets, while the meal replacements and supplement powders category places second in conventional food, drug and mass-merchandise stores.

Probiotic supplements and digestive enzymes are the most prevalent primary ingredients in food-allergy products; quercetin and betaine HCL are also commonly found in products sold through both naturals and conventional channels. Other primary ingredients vary by channel; in naturals supermarkets, oregano plays a signi?ficant role, while in conventional FDM, lactase is the third-ranked ingredient. Out of 142 brands of food- allergy supplements, 56 are exclusive to naturals supermarkets and 41 to conventional FDM. Leading brands of food-allergy supplements include Jarrow Formulas, Culturelle, Bio-K and Garden of Life.

The opportunities are vast for companies to develop products that enhance the quality of life for people with food sensitivities. Supplements formulas that help to correct nutrient deficiencies and support digestive integrity and immunity will continue to see demand grow. The natural products industry is the trailblazer in offering products that help those with food sensitivities maintain a healthy and enjoyable life, and it will continue to be a leader in addressing the special needs of this growing population.

Food Allergy Categories

 

Natural supermarkets

Current $

Year Ago $

% Change

Food allergies

$79,686,836

$69,127,541

15%

Vitamins & minerals

$75,907,051

$65,525,395

16%

Digestive aids & enzymes

$2,702,190

$2,554,984

6%

Herbal formulas

$604,122

$556,157

9%

Miscellaneous supplements

$364,294

$410,995

-11%

Homeopathic medicines

$105,695

$78,086

35%

Meal replacements & supplement powders

$3,389

$1,618

110%

Food supplements

$95

$308

-69%


 

Conventional FDM

Current $

Year Ago $

% Change

Food allergies

$75,657,407

$63,136,902

20%

Digestive aids & enzymes

$74,207,243

$61,626,709

20%

Meal replacements & supplement powders

$624,147

$800,297

-22%

Homeopathic medicines

$439,711

$370,700

19%

Vitamins & minerals

$298,715

$259,832

15%

Herbal formulas

$67,788

$65,453

4%

Miscellaneous supplements

$19,803

$13,911

42%


Food Allergy Ingredients

 

Natural supermarkets

Current $

Year Ago $

% Change

Food allergies

$79,686,836

$69,127,541

15%

Probiotic supplement

$54,721,198

$46,895,388

17%

Digestive enzymes - other

$20,677,020

$18,018,249

15%

Quercetin

$2,762,324

$2,766,433

0%

Betaine HCL (Hydrochloride)

$734,495

$717,306

2%

Oregano

$430,793

$389,243

11%

Thymus extract

$125,629

$149,381

-16%

Specialty remedies (Homeo)

$105,695

$78,086

35%

Selenium

$86,478

$79,535

9%

All other

$43,204

$33,920

27%


 

Conventional FDM

Current $

Year Ago $

% Change

Food allergies

$75,657,408

$63,136,901

20%

Probiotic supplement

$42,024,670

$30,226,813

39%

Digestive enzymes - other

$28,018,716

$27,477,595

2%

Lactase

$4,779,180

$4,718,423

1%

Specialty remedies (Homeopathic)

$439,711

$370,700

19%

Quercetin

$306,887

$264,053

16%

Betaine HCL (Hydrochloride)

$52,038

$46,288

12%

Oregano

$33,914

$31,460

8%

Thymus extract

$2,292

$1,569

46%


Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 3/p. 152

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