As the number of people with allergies soars, so does the “free-from” food market—that is, foods that avoid common allergens like peanuts, the Washington Post reports. Specialty foods are expected to bring in $3.9 billion this year, a study says, while gluten-free products will likely bank some $1.3 billion by 2010. Special-needs customers have become a coveted slice of the market.
Some 12 million Americans have food allergies, while another 2 million have celiac, or gluten intolerance. The number of kids with peanut allergies has doubled in the past decade, leaving doctors stumped, but propelling specialty foods from a niche market to the mainstream. “There's a market opportunity, there's no doubt about it,” says a peanut-free retailer.