Mark Penn, probably best known for coining the term "soccer moms," recently wrote a book with E. Kinsey Zillane called Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes. The thesis of the book is that a constituency of approximately one percent of the population --- about three million people --- is sufficient in size to influence culture, politics, business, you name it. In Penn's own words:
By the time a trend hits 1 percent, it is ready to spawn a hit movie, best-selling book, or new political movement. The power of individual choice is increasingly influencing politics, religion, entertainment, and even war. In todayís mass societies, it takes only 1 percent of people making a dedicated choice -- contrary to the mainstreamís choice -- to create a movement that can change the world.
Itís the same in business, too, since the Internet has made it so easy to link people together. In the past, it was almost impossible to market to small groups who were spread around the country. Now itís a virtual piece of cake to find 1 million people who want to try your grapefruit diet, or who canít get their kids to sleep at night. (Microtrends)
It feels almost pejorative to define living with food allergies as a "trend"; this is not, of course, something you choose for yourself. (Then again, neither are some of the nearly seventy-five other groups Penn and Zillane profile in Microtrends, like skin cancer survivors or people in the early stages of hearing loss.) People with food allergies are not among the groups Penn writes about, but it's an interesting parallel. Estimates of the percentage of the population with food allergies vary, but range from roughly two percent on up --- certainly enough to fall into Penn's definition of a microtrend. And some of the business consequences Penn predicts in his book, like greater availability of products and services for people with allergies due to the critical mass needed to sustain the businesses who make these products, are indeed happening --- just walk into a large supermarket and take note of the nut-free cereals, allergen-free baking mixes, and dairy-free beverages in the natural foods section.
Along those lines, I wanted to point you to a list of new foods coming to market in the next few months, compiled by Lynda Mitchell of Kids with Food Allergies. Most should be on store shelves soon, if they're not already (I know I've seen at least a few of the new products in my area, and tried a couple of the celiac-friendly offerings), and the list includes products free of "big eight" allergens plus yeast-free, gluten-free, and vegan products. See something appealing you can't find locally? Ask your grocery manager about stocking it, contact the manufacturer directly (Lynda's guide includes contact information for all eleven), or check the allergy grocery shopping guide for links to several of the larger online allergy-friendly stores.