Allergen-friendly, free-from claims offer marketing potential beyond conventional food, beverage

Source: Atrium Innovations

With the number of Americans with food allergies and sensitivities increasing, free-from claims have become du jour in the conventional food and beverage space, but they remain relatively rare in the supplement segment and as such offer manufacturers a powerful tool to set their products apart. 

“From a food perspective and from a healthy lifestyle perspective, people are increasingly cognizant of not wanting junk in their food and they are reading nutrition labels and trying to avoid things …. But, I am not sure that people take the same time for their supplements,” even though they should, said Barry Ritz, VP of scientific and regulatory affairs at Atrium Innovations, which makes Pure Encapsulations hypoallergenic dietary supplements.

He explained at the Food and Nutrition Convention and Expo in Boston in mid-October that for most people buying supplements can be confusing, and often they are so focused on finding the primary ingredients for the benefits they seek that they do not realize they also need to look at the label to ensure the other ingredients will not trigger an allergy or ingredient sensitivity. Or they may not realize that there are allergy-friendly options available, he added.

But given that food allergies and sensitivities are on the rise, he suggests, “we are at a crucial time to make sure people are recognizing that their supplement choices are as relevant to their allergies and sensitivities as” their conventional food choices.

Beyond helping the consumer, such claims also would help manufacturers’ products stand out on crowded shelves to an ever-growing segment of the population, he said.

Indeed, according to the Food Allergy Research and Education, as many as 15 million people have food allergies, including nearly 9 million adults and 6 million children. In addition, 34 million people in the US – or about 15% of the population – have an ingredient sensitivity, which can cause a range of reactions from mild upset stomach, to a rash or a negative mental feeling.

Ritz said he suspects this number will continue to rise, at least in the short term, given that a brief published by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2013 found that from 1997 to 2011, children with food allergies in the US increased 50%.

Meeting consumer demand

To help meet growing consumer demand for allergy-friendly products, Ritz says Pure Encapsulations offers hypoallergenic dietary supplements that are held at a standard above and beyond the common Good Manufacturing Practices required by FDA and can serve as a role model for other manufacturers.

Specifically, he explained that the company’s products avoid allergens in the sourcing and manufacturing of dietary supplements; avoids unnecessary binders or fillers in the manufacturing process as well as other substances commonly avoided by sensitive consumers, such as coatings, shellacs, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners and artificial colors; and screens for environmental contaminants.

The company also tests all of its solvents to avoid contamination of allergens or ingredients associated with sensitivities, he said.

Pure Encapsulation products that meet those standards, as well as are free from any of the major food allergens, bear a claim on the principle display panel that the product is hypoallergenic – a helpful reminder to consumers that they should remember allergens when buying supplements and that there are products available to them if they have an allergen, Ritz said.

He added that Pure Encapsulation products also warn consumers not only when one of the top eight major allergens are present in a product, but also of other potentially allergenic materials, including corn, sesame, monosodium glutamate and others.

Beyond this, Ritz said, Pure Encapsulations is working closely with health care providers to inform them about which supplements are safe for people with allergies and sensitivities and which are not. This strategy helps raise consumer awareness as well as connect the brand with potentially long-term loyal consumers because those who seek guidance from qualified health professionals are less likely to switch brands based on promotions and other market variables.

Finally, Ritz said, supplement manufacturers can provide an added layer of assurance to consumers with allergies and sensitivities by having their products third-party certified for quality.

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