Most schools in the UK will have one or two children with a food allergy, with numbers set to rise, according to Allergy UK. Between 2013 and 2019, England saw a 72% rise in the number of hospital admissions for children caused by anaphylaxis, from 1,015 admissions to 1,746, reveals the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation.
The industry has been responding in various ways. For example, in December 2020, NHS England announced the availability of Palforzia - a Nestlé-owned branded immunotherapy treatment for peanut taken daily for at least 2 years to treat children with peanut allergy. Nestlé has, however, now begun the process of selling the unit, which will reportedly cost it around $2 billion.
We have also seen the rise of products involving giving babies the exact amount of allergens, to prevent them developing food allergies.
‘Food safe options are critical’
Angelic Free From’s focus is food safe options. “Experts are still in the dark as to why numbers of childhood allergies are increasing, which is why awareness, research into causes and cures, as well as safe food options – especially in the school environment - are all critical,” Kirsty Dingwall, founder of Angelic Free From told FoodNavigator.
The brand has launched what it claims is the first dedicated kids’ top 14-allergen-free biscuit’ offer in Ocado, to support safer snacking policies in schools. “Due to the increase in allergies amongst children, more schools across the UK are now adopting policies such as ‘Nut Free School’, this may be applied where a pupil in the school has a severe food allergy,” explained Dingwall. “In the scenario where a pupil has a nut allergy, many schools make it part of their policy that pupils and staff don’t bring products with nuts into the school environment.”
Explaining the appeal of the NPD from a business perspective, Dingwall estimates the Allergy Free Kids Snack Market to be worth £308 million, based upon information from Mintel Free From Market Report 2021.
‘May contain labels don’t go far enough’
Leaving an allergic child at the school gate, meanwhile, can be ‘terrifying’ for parents, revealed Dingwall, who founded Angelic in 2012. Having suffered from food intolerances and having a son who lives with multiple food allergies, Dingwall said there was the lack of options she could trust – especially as he approached school age.
“Many ‘Free From’ products only omit one or two allergens and often come with a ‘May Contain’ warning – we felt this all rather missed the point for the consumer, revealing a significant gap for a safe snacking option consumers can rely on,” she continued.
“Complete trust in the food your child is eating is everything, so we have created the first range, especially for kids, with an allergy promise that goes above and beyond to make snacking safe, wholesome, and delicious for them.”
With the Angelic Safetylicious range now part of the dedicated Top 14-allergen-free aisle in Ocado, it is giving more families access to a reassuring, nutritious and tasty option for children in a format that is perfect for school lunchboxes and any snacking occasion, she said.
Owing to her firsthand knowledge of how challenging life with food allergies can be, her vision is for Angelic to help those affected by food allergies stay safe, so they can live free from worry.
“We have very clear on pack labelling, providing parents with reassurance that our products top 14-allergen safe, including gluten, nuts and dairy, calling out our ‘Safe for School’ message loud and proud on pack,” she told us.
‘Taste is key driver in most kids’ lunchbox choices’
Is it still a struggle convincing parents to give their children a packaged snack products even though its allergy-free, however? Might parents still be tempted to avoid packaged snack products altogether and give them snacks, like simple fruit, that they know will 100% be free of risk? “Taste is key driver in most kids’ lunchbox choices, and we know that children want to be free to enjoy a variety of snacking options,” responded Dingwall. “Those with allergies, they often have very little choice, which makes them feel excluded and different to their friends. We’ve tapped into that insight, providing a safe, delicious and convenient solution that children love and parents feel reassured by.”
The brand also needs to reassure school management teams that the products are safe for school. It therefore also works with the OFSTED accredited allergy training provider Allergy Badge, funding courses in schools to train teaching staff on how to use auto-injectors. “We also have our own ‘Safe for School Initiative’ pack which we supply as an educational resource to schools with allergy free policies, signposting our products as a safe choice,” she revealed to us.
Going above and beyond to ensure the ingredients are free from allergens bumps up costs, however. Does any of this affect Angelic’s plans? “Safety is absolutely paramount to us, and we undertake thorough due diligence on the ingredients throughout our supply chain, including robust product testing to substantiate our claims,” she said.
“We incur additional costs in our supply chain, for quality ingredients, which have a premium price due to the additional strict allergy controls and robust testing in place – we try to keep the costs back to the consumer to a minimum but it’s crucial to keep our standards high for them,” she said.
“We also have invested and developed a robust set of manufacturing controls and processes, and have a strong foundation to scale the business, with a growth strategy, which includes an exciting innovation pipeline and distribution strategy, tapping into more occasions and environments where consumers need safe and delicious snacking options.
“Marketing too forms a big part of our plans to help raise awareness of allergies, working with key charities and initiatives to support safer snacking and understanding across school communities and beyond.”