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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 foodallergies, finding great-tasting food products that meet theirneeds is a challenge. Still, as the demand for allergen-free foodsrises among consumers, so does the opportunity for health-mindedentrepreneurs. In fact, sales of food allergy and intoleranceproducts jumped 17 percent in 2004 and are projected to reach $3.9billion by 2008, according to Packaged Facts, a division ofMarketResearch.com, which publishes reports on a rangeof consumer industries. Though children are more likely to havefood allergies, entire families often adopt the allergen-free diet,in turn growing the market, says David Lummis, a project managerfor MarketResearch.com.

The founders of Enjoy Life Natural Brands, Bert Cohen, 33, and ScottMandell, 34, have watched the market grow since they launched theirfood manufacturing and marketing company in 2002. Selling onlyfoods free of the most common allergens (eggs, fish, milk, peanuts,shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat are responsible for 90 percentof all allergic reactions in the United States), these Chicagoentrepreneurs say their most popular products are granola cerealsand cookies. But their bagels and snack bars do well in theironline store and the specialty and health-food markets theydistribute to, which are located throughout most of the country aswell as Canada. Getting distribution for their specialty productsis a challenge, says Cohen, but they're steadily growing withannual sales in the low seven figures.

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