Allergen-free brands are rapidly becoming mainstream. And we are pleased – we think of them as a new way of eating for everyone, not a restriction for the few. We think they can bring excitement, challenge and innovation to mainstream food.

We see the UK market leading the way as both existing and new brands respond to food allergies, sensitivities and the lifestyle changes of consumers by developing new languages and aesthetics to meet this demand and desire. In fact, allergen-free is such a recognized market in the UK that the name convention Free From has become synonymous with foods, brands, and ranges that cater to those with allergies. In the U.S. however, allergen-free remains something of an untapped opportunity and particularly we feel, for the PL sector. With one in five Americans now living, or knowing someone, who lives a gluten-free lifestyle, why are there so few private label ranges catering to those who live allergen-free?

Genius – a UK brand similar to the U.S.’s Boulder Foods, famous for their Udi’s and Glutino brands – is one of the brands leading the exciting innovation and evolution in this sector. Historically a staid aisle, Genius wanted to assert its category leader status and support its drive to become a household name in the mainstream bakery sector by providing the choice and creativity gluten-free brands now offer. A new identity and packaging design for the brand has introduced vibrant colors into the portfolio, colors reflective of the mainstream category codes for daily food staples giving better definition and shelf stand-out.

Another great example of UK allergen innovation is Ilumi – a range of 100% natural nut, milk and gluten-free gourmet convenience meals. This new brand has been designed to reflect the exciting truth behind its food; that it’s full of taste, variety and cooking expertise while still being allergy free. The brand philosophy focuses on food without sacrifice, bringing to life a forward thinking, food-focused approach and creating a connected community around the brand.

A positive aesthetic and approach to the allergen-free lifestyle is also favored by Boulder. For brands such as Udi’s, Boulder embraces a mission to change the way we eat and uses a bold and bright design and naming strategy -that includes a friendly and tasty two word adjective descriptor – across the full range of products. With its growing portfolio of health and wellness brands, Boulder Foods currently has the monopoly on the U.S. market and is single-handedly steering the innovation, communication and aesthetic of this increasingly important food sector. But that does not mean that there is not room for a challenger or two.

With this growing market high on consumer’s, retailer’s and the nation’s agenda it is important for brands to recognize the power of effective design in opening up a forward thinking, food-focused approach in a world where food can often seem restricted and side-lined. Consumers are increasingly looking for direct and effective connections made by trusted sources, brands and thought leaders. And this presents the PL sector with a new, exciting and challenging opportunity for future brand thinking, innovation and design.

With increasingly recognized food expertise and ownership and with correspondingly impressive design credentials, private label has one of the best platforms from which to reinvent this niche market and become leaders in creating another/ a new category and language. Furthermore, the product innovation possibilities within this sector are boundless and not just confined to the gluten free or dairy and nut free areas. There is a whole range of food needs that currently are unaddressed.

We believe that there is a huge opportunity to embrace these needs and find new product solutions as a way of stimulating and challenging the assumptions of the mainstream – and growing an entirely new customer base as the demand for allergen-free brands increases. But, it will only be through innovative design thinking that we will see a real difference. A strong design aesthetic and the creation of new ways to express allergen-free will help pave the way for future brand and design concepts with impact and influence on the future of food, health, lifestyle and beyond.

Originally published on My Private Brand