Allergens - it’s time to get a good reaction from your customers

by Alistair Coats

Allergens are becoming an increasingly important part of catering. Being able to show clearly which menus contain certain ingredients, and to guarantee that they won’t sneak into an order unexpectedly, is vital for building customer confidence.

The rise of allergens

More and more customers are looking for gluten-free options, or need an intolerance or allergy catered for. A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that food allergies in children increased by around 50% between 1997 and 2011.

While it is unclear what is causing this rise, what’s obvious is that the trend continues, with adults increasingly taking more of an interest in diet, testing different ingredients for their impact on digestion and health. One in five people in the UK now claim to suffer from a food intolerance and more than half of shoppers include ‘free-from’ produce in their regular shopping trip.

This change represents a huge shift for caterers, as opportunities for innovative menu additions are possible, while many items are likely to go out of fashion.

What allergens mean for caterers

The gluten-free retail market was $1.7bn in 2011. Market research company Euromonitor forecasts that it will be $4.7bn by 2020. With wheat and meat dropping in popularity, it may be safe to assume that the sandwich market might shift from the classic ‘Bread-meat-bread’ combo.

For some years now, we’ve had very clear indications of allergen content in Spoonfed user menus. The EU’s 14 major food allergens can be applied to items in Spoonfed at any point, so that a menu is clearly labelled. Customers ordering online just hover over the item to see an allergen warning, while icons for vegetarian or vegan options stand out, making it easy for customers to find what they want.


In the EU this labelling is required. Other countries vary in the extent of their list of recognized allergens, with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) recognizing only eight, and some countries having no policy. It’s a feature of Spoonfed that we always recommend using fully though, as the information is quick to complete and it removes the lost sales that come with uncertainty about food contents.

The future for caterers

We can’t be sure what foods will be on and off-trend as dietary advice shifts in the coming years. What we do know is that a well-designed buyer journey and clear production sheets in the kitchen give customers confidence that they will receive exactly the food they want, and this will continue to become an increasingly important part of catering. That’s how repeat customers are earned and that’s how you get a good reaction from them, rather than an allergic one.

To find out more about how Spoonfed’s online ordering and menu system works, drop us a line at:

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