Catering to the 1% has huge benefits

The gluten-free craze won’t go away any time soon. Don’t get me wrong, Celiac disease is a very real condition and its effects are not fun, at all. From bloating to joint pain and migraine, those who have it have a hard time as gluten naturally occurs in wheat and related grains and is part of the preparation of several meals.

However, only 0.5% to 1% of the U.S. population are actually allergic to it. How did this small percentage triggered such a change in the industry? It’s all part of our current trend of wanting all of our food to be preservative, additive, antibiotic and cage free, grass fed, humane, fair-trade, organic, non-GMO, happy-raised chicks, pigs, cows and fish.

As such, it should not come as a surprise that the gluten-free industry has been growing for the past five years at double digits and in 2014 was worth $973 million. It is expected it will exceed $2 billion dollars by 2019.

So, what’s the next fad compound to avoid? A Northwestern University start-up seems to have a clear idea: Sulfites. And they are going after a very interesting market, wine.

Sulfites, just like gluten, only affect 1 out of every 100 people, according to the FDA. Sulfites, while naturally occurring, are added to wine before bottling, as a preservative. Again, those who are sensitive to it suffer inconvenient effects, from mild whizzing, to asthma, to generalized allergic reaction.

Üllo, a device created by a team led by James Kornacki, a NU Chemistry PhD, wants to help wine enthusiasts be able to enjoy a purer wine. Their device filters (and optionally aerates) wine, so sulfites are reduced close to naturally occurring levels, which they say is less than 10 ppm.

The team will be launching their Kickstarter campaign later tonight, so we don’t know yet how much money they are expecting to raise nor the sale price.

What we do know is that the market is there. The wine market in the U.S. is estimated to have a retail value of $37 billion, which comes from a 22 year consistent volume growth which ultimately turned the nation in the world’s top wine consumer, since 2010.

Imagine if sulfites pick-up just as gluten did. They are bound to a pretty exciting (and profitable) ride.

Cheers to my peers!

10390569_10153018125703728_5495863522455848014_n-2Blog post by Francisco González, MEM Student: Post originally appeared on the author’s Medium blog.

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