ingredients, Nutrition

Six Steps Food Manufacturers Can Take to Gain Trust of Food Allergy Consumers

brown wooden round bowl with brown nuts

When I worked at Clif Bar and Company, my son ate countless Z Bars, Luna Bars, and every other non-peanut bar we made. Sometimes I would find him sitting under my desk with a pile of wrappers, one of each flavor which he had accessed at the employee snack station. Then, we begin getting calls about people with peanut allergies reacting to the non-peanut-containing flavors, like Apricot Clif Bar! Turns out peanuts and peanut butter residue hides in nooks and crannies of manufacturing lines. He stopped eating them even though he never had a reaction to a Clif Bar product. We also updated the packaging to reflect the potential for trace amounts despite operations best intentions.

Since then, incidence and knowledge of food allergies has grown along with the market for safe food choices for those with allergies. Food allergies and intolerances prompted a “free-from” movement so large within the food industry that it leaves a person wondering “what is left to be free from?”

Claims on packaged foods are increasing to 1) Differentiate from other food on the shelf and 2) Inform consumers looking for that specific attribute.

Free-from wheat, dairy, gluten, nuts and seeds are common. A note of caution however, FREE-FROM doesnt mean ZERO. Isolating allergens out of food manufacturing is extremely difficult. It isn’t impossible though and food companies that go the extra mile to make truly allergen free and safe foods for allergic consumers are seeing revenue gains.

Nielsen data showed 10.4 billion in revenue in 2021 and 12.2% year in allergen-free foods. A recent report by Market Research Future (MRFR) believes that the allergen free foods market will see steady growth through 2023.

Food allergies are common. The increase in allergen safe foods can be a relief to parents (me included) of kids thriving with food allergies. How can food manufactures label foods so consumers can feel confident that they food is safe for someone with one of the top nine food allergens?

  1. Know the top 9
    • The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 stated the top eight allergens were peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, soy beans, eggs, fish, shell fish, and milk.
    • On April 23, 2021, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act was signed into law, declaring sesame as the 9th major food allergen recognized by the United States. 
  2. List common name (as required by the FDA) in the ingredient statement
    • According to the FDA ‘ the common or usual name of the ingredient uses the name of the food source from which the major food allergen is derived’ is required to be either in the listed ingredients or a Contains statement.
    • My professional and experienced opinion is to put the contains statement immediately following the ingredient list on every package to clearly list any allergen identified in the top 9.
  3. Provide a ‘Contains’ statement
    • Immediately following the ingredient list, state CONTAINS: Peanuts, tree nuts, wheat etc
  4. Provide a ‘May Contain’ statement
    • A ‘ May contain’ statement is additional helpful information to the allergic consumer. Knowing that the possibility of the allergy exists helps them to determine whether or not to take the risk of exposure
  5. Provide facility information
    • If the food is manufactured in an allergen free setting, include this information on the packaging.
    • ‘Produced in a peanut free facility’ increases the confidence and gets our household really excited!
  6. Be Prepared to Substantiate Allergen Claims & Statements
    • This is tricky and how claims are substantiated will be different for each manufacturer.
    • Whatever your method, document it and make it referenceable to those fielding questions from the public about allergens.
    • Substantiation usually is a combination of things like: ingredient specification sheets with allergen information, allergen testing programs, affidavits from manufactures and suppliers.
two people holding pineapple fruit on their palm

Crafting Food for the Journey?

Did you know Tara has twenty-plus years experience working with food and supplement companies to apply evidenced-based nutrition principles to the development and marketing of sports nutrition foods and supplements? 

As the founding dietitian at Clif Bar & Company, Tara lead the product nutrition development program and nutrition communications for nearly two decades. Her knowledge levels-up recipes, formulations, labeling claims, marketing messages, and content development. 

For information on how she can help elevate your products, marketing programs, and messages book a free call!