Allergy-free food companies have been riding the research wave for a decade, when a study came out of the University of Maryland stating that Celiac disease was more prevalence than first thought and affected one in 133 Americans. Then, about six years ago the Center for Disease Control published that food allergies affected 12 million Americans.

"Even though we have the research numbers, I don't think a lot of people really understand how severe the problem is," said Wang. "How many parents really understand their kids have an allergic problem to nuts or to seafood?"

Scott Mandell, CEO of Enjoy Life Foods, a Chicago-based company which makes cookies, snacks, granola and bagels free of the eight most common allergens, said the market is quite a bit bigger than first thought, and the study will be helpful to increase distribution. "This type of information gives us something credible to use when describing why our products are so important in the marketplace," he said.

Allergen-free foods invade the ballpark

As a testament to how far public awareness has come, Enjoy Life Foods now provides products for the concession stands in Chicago's Wrigley Field. The Cubs approached the company, wanting to provide gluten-free and allergen-free food options for families. Mandell said the project will be a pilot for future partnerships. Baseball games are nearly synonymous with peanuts, but patrons at Wrigley Field can now munch on allergen-free cookies and trail mix.

"Our goal is just to produce great tasting products that everyone can eat," said Mandell. "It's not, 'Here's special food for people who have food allergies.' Rather, here's food that everyone can eat, including people who have food allergies."