Allergy-Free Sweets at Laura's Fudge Help Meet Growing Demand
More Americans are suffering from food allergies and seeking allergy-free products.
For Katie Ball, it started with a granola bar and ended with a frighteningly swollen throat and tongue.
The experience was not unlike something millions of Americans have experienced: an allergic reaction to food. Ball learned as an adult that she had become allergic to nuts.
Her allergy is part of the inspiration for a new line of nut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free sweets at the Boardwalk franchise that she co-owns with her brother, John Ball. Laura's Fudge at 932 Boardwalk is now selling chocolates, chocolate-covered pretzels, caramel corn and other sweets in its new allergy-free section. The shop also offers an array of sugar-free products.
The section meets a growing demand in the U.S. for allergy-free products. Between 0.6 percent and 1.3 percent of individuals in the U.S. are allergic to peanuts alone — and the number of people with food allergies has doubled in the past 20 years, according to studies funded by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
Scientists are not sure what caused the trend, but some theories include:
- Immune systems softened by living in cleaner homes.
- Waiting till children are older before feeding first feeding them peanuts.
- Roasting peanuts instead of boiling them.
Katie and John Ball saw the impact of the trend first-hand with more and more customers coming into their shop asking for allergy-free products.
John Ball said the shop took a lesson from Ted Schroeder, the owner of Pure Tacos, a Boardwalk neighbor of the former location of Laura's Fudge near 11th Street. Schroeder is fastidious about the controls necessary to ensure that no wheat products have any way to come in contact with his gluten-free menu items.
Ball said that all of the new offerings at Laura's Fudge are made off the premises by outside vendors who can make similar guarantees about the integrity of their allergy-free products.
He and his sister said the new products have already proven popular — with many families buying allergy-free products to protect even just one child from exposure.
John (2002) and Katie (2004) are both graduates of Ocean City High School and York College. They purchased the franchise seven years ago, and opened a downtown Laura's Fudge (935 Asbury Avenue) four or five years ago. The shop also has a location at 34th Street and West Avenue.
Call 609-399-0616 for more information.