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Chew on This

Cater to customers with food allergies, and you'll be sure to get a good reaction.

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This story appears in the April 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

For the 11 million-plus Americans who suffer from food allergies, finding great-tasting food products that meet their needs is a challenge. Still, as the demand for allergen-free foods rises among consumers, so does the opportunity for health-minded entrepreneurs. In fact, sales of food allergy and intolerance products jumped 17 percent in 2004 and are projected to reach $3.9 billion by 2008, according to Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, which publishes reports on a range of consumer industries. Though children are more likely to have food allergies, entire families often adopt the allergen-free diet, in turn growing the market, says David Lummis, a project manager for MarketResearch.com.

The founders of Enjoy Life Natural Brands, Bert Cohen, 33, and Scott Mandell, 34, have watched the market grow since they launched their food manufacturing and marketing company in 2002. Selling only foods free of the most common allergens (eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat are responsible for 90 percent of all allergic reactions in the United States), these Chicago entrepreneurs say their most popular products are granola cereals and cookies. But their bagels and snack bars do well in their online store and the specialty and health-food markets they distribute to, which are located throughout most of the country as well as Canada. Getting distribution for their specialty products is a challenge, says Cohen, but they're steadily growing with annual sales in the low seven figures.

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