Assisting Shoppers with Allergies
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Grocery shopping during the COVID-19 crisis has been a challenge for many customers, but these uncertain times can be really tough for families living with food allergies. Shoppers, who must deal with a restricted diet, may be in need of some extra help and guidance right now. Here are some ways your store(s) can provide support:
- Help customers prepare for shopping. Offer a allergen-free shopping list and include meal tips for using basic supplies. For example: Multi-use flour as a base for pancakes, breading or muffins; shelf-stable non-dairy milk alternatives; allergy-friendly chicken, vegetable or beef stocks for stews & soups; gluten-free pasta, quinoa and rice for soups, stews, burrito bowls, stir-fry and to stretch leftovers. Reach out to vendors such as Enjoy Life Foods who specialize in allergen-free products, for recipes or educational resources.
- Have clear and consistent signage. Help allergen-free shoppers identify products on the shelf with information that accurately provides the details they need to make an informed decision. This may include shelf tags by individual products or signage for allergen-free displays or aisles. In addition, it’s helpful to post notifications about potential cross-contact in areas such as the deli department or bulk foods.
- Provide on-line shopping support. Many customers are avoiding coming into stores to shop right now so the availability of on-line solutions can be very helpful for those seeking allergen-free products. Offer prepacked allergen-free boxes available for pick up or delivery. These could include snack products, baking supplies, or a recipe card with ingredients. Some stores, such as Hannaford, have an online shopping filter that identifies products specific to an allergy or intolerance.
- Share allergen-free shopping tools. Yummly features more than two million recipes that can be personalized to dietary needs. Individuals just plug in their allergies to find appropriate recipes and can even search for recipes from ingredients on hand. ShopWell is a free app that gives a personalized nutrition score when a food profile is created with dietary goals, allergies, health concerns, and dislikes. Simply scan items to see if they match. Allergen Inside is a membership program where shoppers can connect their rewards card or online grocery store account to have their groceries checked for allergens. One or more stores can be linked and it’s supported by most major retailers.
- Communicate your availability to help. – If your store is willing to take orders for specialty items that you may not regularly carry, let shoppers know how to put in a request. Highlight any online resources you may have and connect with local allergist offices to promote your allergen-free shopping solutions.