Mintel's Allergy and Allergy Remedies UK 2010

Alex Gazzola reports

International market research company Mintel’s Allergy and Allergy Remedies UK 2010 Report – a comprehensive fifty-page document exploring the level of allergy suffering in the country, and our use of medication and treatments to manage our various allergic conditions – has been released. Here are some key figures from the report and summaryof some of its findings.

Numbers of sufferers

We’ve long known about the huge allergy problem, but the Allergy & Allergy Remedies UK 2010 Report brings into focus the scale of the problem – with 44% of British adults now suffering from or claiming to suffer from at least one allergy, according to Mintel’s own consumer research. This represents 21 million people – an increase of 2 million in the year between 2008 and 2009. Of these, 48% say they suffer from more than one allergy – that’s around 10 million people.

The least likely to suffer from allergies are pensioners – with a 30% allergy rate among this group. Women and younger adults (under 35s) are the most likely to claim an allergy – around 50% of each. The Mintel analysts suggest that this may be in part due to the fact the under 35s are less likely to have had their allergies diagnosed by an orthodox medical professional, and may be confusing or conflating allergies, intolerances and other reactions or sensitivities.

Here is a simplified breakdown of key figures from the Mintel prevalence survey, drawn from a sample of over 1,000 individuals:


Prevalence among all respondents

Prevalence among allergy sufferers

Hay fever/pollen allergy






House dust mites









Dairy products (incl. eggs)






Nuts (incl. peanuts)












Other allergy (non-food)



Other allergy (food)






None of these







According to the research, only 49% of all allergy sufferers have been medically diagnosed – which would represent around 10 million people.

Of respondents claiming to have one or more allergy, 18% self-diagnosed their condition(s) – which would be equivalent to around two million people. This could represent a considerable under-estimate, as the remaining 33% did not disclose to researchers how their allergies were diagnosed. Clearly, there is a need to improve access to allergy testing and increase awareness and education surrounding the issues.

“There are only a limited number of NHS allergy clinics in the UK and so waiting lists for testing tend to be long and people are left with little choice but to research their symptoms to identify what they are allergic to,” says Alexandra Richmond, Senior Health and Beauty Analyst at Mintel. “A lack of professional opinion may see them wrongly believing that they are allergic to a number of things when in fact they are not.”

Allergy Testing Provision

Some five million adults – around 10% – would like to be tested in order to know which allergies they suffer from. With around 90 allergy clinics in the UK, most of them part-time, this is the equivalent of one clinic for every 56,000 adults who would like to be tested for allergies.

Tests include skin prick testing (SPT), IgE blood tests, food challenge testing, hydrogen breath testing (for lactose intolerance), coeliac tests, and dietary exclusion/reintroduction (for food intolerances). Private healthcare organisations offer allergy testing. BUPA (, for example, offers testing for 54 allergens (34 different foods and 20 kinds of airborne substances) at a cost of between £330 and £430.

Home testing kits are an evolving sector, say Mintel, but they do warn that the efficacy of tests for food intolerance, on offer at pharmacy chains including Superdrug, has been questioned by leading health professionals and profiled in TV watchdog programmes.


Over 70% of allergy sufferers use medication, with 63% having used at least one form during the preceding year.

Growth in the market for over the counter (OTC) allergy remedies stagnated in 2009, and the market was valued at £110 million last year, roughly the same as for both 2007 and 2008, although this does represent a 5% growth since 2004. Mintel believe that value sales have been impacted by price discounting (for instance, by supermarkets) – with volume sales less affected. Hay fever remedies take the lion’s share of the market – 77% of value sales. Nasal sprays and eye drops are seeing the fastest growth among types of treatments allergy sufferers are plumping for.

The market is also competing with slightly improved awareness of allergies and allergen avoidance among consumers, which is fuelling a rise in anti-allergy bedding, vacuum cleaners and household cleaning products and detergents. Innovation in anti-allergen products has helped to reduce the impact of allergies and may be a contributor to the stagnation of the medicinal allergy remedy market.

Mintel also suggests that poor access to allergy testing on the NHS may be limiting growth in the OTC allergy remedy market, which is potentially missing out on new, as yet undiagnosed consumers.

There are several interesting potential consequences of this market slow-down.

The allergy remedies market lags well behind the free-from food market, whose 2009 value was estimated at £249 million. Mintel suggests that allergy remedy manufacturers may be tempted to target a slice of that free-from market by developing allergy-avoidance foods to complement their medicinal allergy portfolios. By branching out in this way, it would allow pharmaceutical allergy brands to promote themselves as all-round allergy brands, targeting both allergy relief and allergy avoidance. Locally produced honies and immunity-boosting allergy-friendly foods could be the kinds of products we could be seeing them become involved in over coming years.

An injection of innovation could also reinvigorate the OTC allergy remedy market in the UK. Mintel found that in 2009 just 1% of all healthcare launches targeted the allergy market – a trifling figure given the extent of the problem. The more thriving US market delivers greater variety of products, such as Benadryl Allergy Quick Dissolve Strips and their Perfect Measure (pre-filled single-use spoons) for children.

Another potential idea for growth would be new ‘duo’ packs of allergy remedies, perhaps sprays and drops in a single pack, much in the same format as thrush product Canesten Duo from Bayer Healthcare, which comes with a tablet and cream.

Despite the recent stagnation, Mintel forecasts that the allergy remedies market will increase by 6% over the coming five years, rising to an estimated £117 million by 2014.

Lifestyle changes

Almost a third of allergy sufferers have had to change their lifestyles to reduce their allergic reactions. Actions range from keeping their home extra clean (11%) to using special bedding (11%).

Surprisingly, 7% of allergy sufferers choose to do nothing about their allergies.

Most allergy sufferers use a combination of avoiding allergy triggers and anti-allergy medication. For 72%, anti-symptomatic medication is their key strategy for fighting their allergy. 49% of sufferers seek to avoid their triggers. The key ‘medicators’ are hay fever sufferers, for whom allergen avoidance is clearly difficult, while the key ‘avoiders’ are those with pet and food allergies.

Attitudes to allergies

There remains an element of scepticism among the British when it comes to allergies. Indeed, a quarter of adults (24%), whether they suffer from allergies or not, believe that “nearly everyone” claims to be allergic to something these days, while around one in five say allergies are a “modern illness”.

A surprisingly low 15% of adults agreed that there needs to be more awareness of allergies – and only 19% of allergy sufferers felt the same way. Only 7% of admitted to not knowing the difference between allergies and intolerance, which may be more likely to indicate false confidence than accurate knowledge.

This report has been adapted from The Mintel Allergies and Allergy Remedies Report 2010, released in March 2010. For further information see The full report is available for £1,500.

First published in 2010

If this article was of interest you will find many other articles on unlikely allergies and allergy connections here – and links to many relevant research studies here.

For more on the more 'mainstream' allergies check in to our 'allergy and intolerance home page' – and for ideas on alternative foods go here.

Back to top