By Allergen Bureau

What do food-allergic consumers want from their bakeries?

More than two million people in the UK have been diagnosed with food allergy, and the majority (75 per cent) still eat bread and other bakery items such as brownies, cakes, and doughnuts. A recent report by global French-style bakery company Délifrance offers insights and advice for the sector to help them cater to the needs and preferences of consumers with food hypersensitivity.

A UK-wide survey was undertaken to gather a clear picture of the food allergies consumers live with, their preferred bakery products, buying habits, and ways in which they could be encouraged to buy more. The survey participants included consumers with food allergies as well as those with children that live with allergies.

Social listening tool Delve Insights was also used to monitor thousands of online conversations to better understand what consumers are saying and feeling when it comes to bakery and food allergens.

The report, called ‘Prove it: adapting bakery to meet the needs of hypersensitive consumers’, sets out the survey and research findings as well as recommendations offered by Délifrance on how food service businesses can safeguard operations and improve bakery sales in what is claimed to be currently an under-serviced market.

Survey results indicate approximately half of those surveyed won’t buy anything or will go elsewhere if they can’t find the bakery product they want, while around one third said they’d buy a bakery item that ‘will do’.

Many respondents said improvements could be made to signage highlighting allergen friendly products, with better labelling, products with allergens being segregated and more choice available for those with dietary restrictions. Many also wanted better staff knowledge on ingredients, with women over 55 found to have the least confidence that their allergy needs were understood when eating out.

Délifrance suggest that if recipes can be easily adapted for those with dietary restrictions, this is always a positive way forward. Where possible, operators should ensure dishes are suitable for a range of options, for example, vegetarian foods can be made vegan to also support those with egg or milk allergies.  

For bakery products that do contain allergens, bakeries are urged to look at whether the allergenic ingredients can be eliminated without compromising on flavour or quality. Some ingredients, such as milk for binding ingredients or an egg wash, may be easily taken out. Creating and communicating the availability of allergen-free alternatives will allow a wider range of consumers to purchase bakery items and improve sales.

To access the free report, go to the Délifrance website.