Allergood Founder and CEO Michelle Addison knew something had to change in the world when she had her daughter in 2010. Her child has severe dairy and soy allergies, so Addison found herself desperately looking for resources to help navigate a life without these foods.
She ended up starting a blog called Dairy and Soy Free Mama as well as a Facebook group to support allergy sufferers and their families. By 2020, Addison had three children with food allergies, and both she and her husband had developed adult-onset food allergies.
Between all of the family members’ food allergies, grocery shopping could easily become a nightmare. And Addison’s family is not alone. About 32 million people have food allergies in the U.S.
That’s why last year Addison decided to build out her own solution to the problem that she and her family were facing.
Durham-based Allergood is a tech platform designed to connect the food allergy community with products, services and resources that make life easier, safer and more enjoyable.
Its first focus, Allergood Grocery, is a subscription service that offers a way for families to purchase safe, allergy-free groceries based on their family’s specific needs. By partnering with manufacturers, Allergood also obtains cross-contamination information so that families have more confidence to try new foods instead of buying the same groceries week after week.
Initially, Addison imagined Allergood would be a meal kit delivery service for families whose food allergies prevented them from using HelloFresh and Blue Apron.
But after 100 customer interviews, she saw that so many families had to go to three or four grocery stores each week while also shopping online and still couldn’t find everything they needed. All the current solutions out there were time-consuming and confusing, Addison said.
“I knew it was a pain point in my life,” Addison said, “but realizing that it was a national pain point was something that I think gave us a lot more conviction in moving forward.”
Before Allergood, Addison was an M&A corporate lawyer who transitioned to the entrepreneur life when she founded Florida-based Tots in Bloom, which offers parenting classes, and custom-made dental device company South Florida Dental Sleep Center.
Addison and Allergood participated this spring in the Duke Innovation Studio accelerator. Through this, Allergood is targeting a July launch date. Already more than 400 people have signed up for the wait list, and this is all before the startup has ramped up any marketing efforts.
Launching amid the supply chain shortages of the pandemic fuels Addison to get Allergood to market faster. Families who have limited options because of food allergies are increasingly losing access to the safe foods they need because of shortages.
“Creating this space where people can find food that’s tailored to their allergies is something that I think is even more needed now than it was before,” Addison said.
In addition to gaining business insight from the Duke accelerator, Addison has also benefited from a strong group of female founders in the Triangle targeting the food allergy market, from Without a Trace’s Brooke Navarro, BIOMILQ’s Michelle Egger and other female founders like Tiny Earth Toys’ Rachael Classi. (We’ve written about both Without a Trace and Tiny Earth Toys.)
“Every day that I’m here, I’m happier that I’m here,” Addison said. “There’s actually a strong group of female founders that are working in the food allergy space here, and that has been fantastic to tap into.”
Beyond the grocery capabilities in Allergood’s platform, Allergood is ultimately a community for the fragmented social network of families and people with food allergies. It’s a safe space to communicate with each other, Addison said, adding that Allergood will be a hub for anyone looking for allergy-free content or resources.
“We want this to be the place on the internet that you go to find answers for whatever you need that makes living with food allergies easier,” Addison said. “And that doesn’t exist right now.”
Being the change she wanted to see
Surprisingly, little has changed in the allergy space over the past decade, according to Addison. Addison sees her entrepreneurial venture as a way to fill a void and do something she’s passionate about.
“My daughter was born in 2010, now it’s 2022,” Addison said. “You would think that there would be something that brings everything together, and there isn’t.”
This is all just the start of what Addison hopes to accomplish with Allergood. She also wants to expand into meal planning and telehealth services alongside strategic partnerships with allergy community-adjacent products and services.
“Allergood Grocery is just the beginning,” Addison said. “We know grocery shopping is a huge pain point, so we wanted to start with a piece that can make a huge impact right away. From there, we will continue to build.”