Consumer Allergen Survey Showcases Opportunity for Retail RDs

Consumer Allergen Survey Showcases Opportunity for Retail RDs

August 10, 2016

By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately four percent of the population has a food allergy. To better understand this shopper’s view of retail practices related to food allergens, particularly in fresh prepared departments of the store, the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) commissioned SupermarketGuru to conduct a consumer survey. The survey results clearly suggest an opportunity for retail dietitians to take a lead role in managing retail allergen programs and improve marketing and communication to shoppers on this important topic.

Below are survey results and opportunities for retail dietitians:

Shopper Education:

- Survey findings:  

      • Only 15% of survey respondents trust allergen statements on food packages. Seven-out-of-ten consumers look for additional certifications on the package label to verify a claim.
      • A significant 51% of survey respondents indicate they would be more likely to shop a store more often if a registered dietitian were available to answer their questions about allergens.

- RD opportunity: Retail RDs can conduct target marketing to allergen-concerned shoppers, featuring themselves as knowledgeable resources on food allergens. Or consider a shopper newsletter targeted specifically at food allergies and related topics (There are likely vendors who would support this effort!). Suggest endcaps of allergy-friendly foods or host a wellness fair of products free of the Big Eight allergens.

In-Store Operations:

- Survey findings: In-store utilization of the four basic food allergy (as well as food safety) best practices is low. Consider:

      • Only 28% of survey respondents indicate staff in the fresh service departments are using disposable gloves and changing them between order.
      • 31% indicate staff have and use separate utensils to avoid cross contamination.
      • Just 24% suggest fresh departments have separate slicing machines to avoid cross contamination and cleaning between orders.
      • 29% indicate staff are wiping counters between orders.
      • If these safe handling practices are not in place, 30% of respondents indicate they won’t buy the product and 20% will actually leave the store.

- RD opportunity: Gain an understanding of who in your company has responsibility for managing these staff practices. Consider if allergen training of staff is an opportunity for you and/or your RD team.  

Communication of Trained Staff:

- Survey findings:  

      • 80% of survey respondents indicate they have never seen in-store signage promoting “Allergen Friendly” or “Allergen Aware.”
      • While 71% of consumers are not sure if their store staff has completed allergen certification, 62% indicate they would be more likely to shop a store if the staff had completed these certification programs.

- RD opportunity: Leverage your expertise in shopper communication by partnering with marketing and communication teams to promote the training your retail staff have completed in allergen safety. During store tours, in blogs and social media posts, and intercom messages promote the allergen certification your colleagues have.

Shoppers with a food allergen or intolerance can be very loyal shoppers, and finding ways to meet the needs of allergen-concerned shoppers can make important contributions to your programs’ ROI and your retailers business.

About the survey: The online survey included 377 adults age 18 and older, and 62% of survey respondents were female. Forty-one percent of respondents had a food allergy or have someone in their household with a food allergy. The survey was conducted during February and March of 2016.