The power of the 0.9%

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

Nut allergies impact shopper behavior

Related tags Food allergy Food

Although fewer than one in 100 (0.9%) of US consumers is afflicted with a peanut or treenut allergy, the purchasing power of that group extends far beyond those with allergies, according to the recent Nut Allergy Ecosystem survey by Rich Products Corp. 

Nearly one out of three consumers say a nut allergy has influenced a food product purchase decision, and 67% take children’s nut allergies into account when selecting snacks for an event involving their children, according to the survey of 1,024 moms that was conducted online by YouGov this spring.

“We wanted to better understand the broad impact that one individual with a nut allergy can have on those that don’t suffer from the allergy themselves,”​ Lauren Lopez, senior marketing manager of desserts at Rich Products, told FoodNavigator-USA. “What we discovered is that while only a small percentage of the population are afflicted with a peanut or tree nut allergy, each individual comes into contact with a vastly larger footprint of individuals. This highlighted the need for consumers to keep nut allergies in mind when making food purchasing decisions for larger group occasions.”

Manufacturers should be leveraging the nut-free label for added peace of mind

Given the severity of nut allergies for many consumers (90% of fatal anaphylaxis in the US occurs from peanut and nut allergies), everyone—from parents and teachers to friends, colleagues, neighbors and relatives—has to be aware when shopping for snacks and treats. More than 50% of moms have received warnings or guidelines from their child’s school.

For many, the warnings are proving almost too effective. Indeed, 17% of survey respondents admitted they’ve been reluctant in the past to provide snacks for an event at all, given concerns over nut allergies. Young moms (under 35) are even more affected, with 22% saying they’re reluctant to bring snacks to an event. But that makes nut-free labels a missed business opportunity as much as a source of comfort to consumers with allergies.

Rich's Nut Allergy Ecosystem Infographic
Rich's Nut Allergy Ecosystem infographic

“As we discovered in our survey, there’s certainly a hesitation and concern from parents who want to provide snacks for children’s events, but are worried about nut allergies,” ​Lopez said. She added that nut-free labels are “extremely important” to consumers—with one in four checking them as their first act in purchasing food products that meet school requirements (second only to asking teachers), according to the results.

“It’s something manufacturers can leverage to help provide added peace of mind,” ​she said. “This is why Rich’s “Our Specialty” labels are all clearly marked peanut- and tree-nut-free to reduce any anxiety and provide consumers with an added sense of confidence when making purchasing decisions.”

Rich%27s nut-free frosted cookies 1
Rich's nut-free Frosted Sugar Cookies

Limited, albeit contaminant-free supplier network

Rich’s rolled out nut-free cookies about two years ago. The cookies are produced in a dedicated nut-free facility using only raw ingredients from suppliers that do not process peanut and tree nuts in those facilities. “Although this restricts the amount of suppliers we can utilize for ingredients, we felt it a necessary step in the process so as to eliminate the risk of contamination and to ensure we deliver a complete 100% nut-free product,”​ Lopez said.

Keeping in mind the importance of taste in ensuring repeat purchases, the manufacturer also created a nut-free version of its iconic Frosted Sugar Cookie line. “We know there are many devoted frosted sugar cookie lovers who have elevated this treat to a near iconic level. So when we decided to make our line of nut-free Frosted Sugar Cookies, we knew we had to get the recipe just right and deliver the same high-quality, great-tasting cookie that our consumers know and love,”​ Lopez added.

Declining to elaborate on sales, Lopez said Rich’s has been “delighted by the extremely positive consumer response since launching the nut-free line,”​ citing the large consumer need for nut-free products that are tasty and provide peace of mind for busy consumers. The company plans to continue expanding the line and has also created a line of gluten-free cookies (also produced in a dedicated facility) to meet growing free-from need.

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