ocado allergen free aisle

Source: Ocado

Ocado quietly added the ‘Top 14 Allergy Free’ search filter to its website last month

Ocado has introduced a dedicated space for foods that are free from all of the top 14 allergens.

The retailer quietly added the ‘Top 14 Allergy Free’ search filter to its website last month.

At the time of writing, a search using the filter returned 65 allergen-free products from brands including Free & Easy, Eat Real, Kirsty’s and Creative Nature.

Ocado Retail buying manager Charmaine Trotman said the retailer was “passionate about creating a shopping experience that has something for everyone”.

It was “delighted to be the first supermarket to launch a dedicated section of this kind” and was “committed to supporting our customers, no matter what their dietary requirements”.

Julianne Ponan, CEO of free from brand Creative Nature hailed Ocado’s move as “a step in the right direction” for severe allergy sufferers, who were “having to go to multiple stores” and meticulously check labels when grocery shopping.

Ponan told The Grocer she had spent “a good three years” lobbying for retailers to introduce areas for foods free of the top 14 allergens, writing to Dominic Raab and meeting with the Food Standards Authority to discuss the matter.

The free-from aisle was originally intended to serve shoppers with allergies, but had become “more a lifestyle aisle” for those were selectively excluding ingredients like gluten and dairy, said Ponan.

This was reflected by the rife use of “alibi labelling”, where brands which marketed their products as ‘free from’ flagged potential allergen traces on pack.

For those at risk of anaphylaxis, labels that warned of allergen traces “might as well say: ‘may contain traces of rat poisoning’”, said Ponan.

The brand had conducted research which suggested people who suffered severe anaphylactic reactions were actually “avoiding the free from aisle”, said Ponan.

Introducing dedicated top 14 allergen free sections could present retailers with commercial opportunity, she added.

“When you’re diagnosed with an allergy what the GP tells you is to avoid the 14 top allergens and don’t eat the ‘may contains’. At that point, the store would be adding value if they added in that top 14 free aisle”, she said.

It comes after Mars’ entire range of vegan chocolate bars was delisted from TescoSainsbury’s and Morrisons earlier this year. The Grocer understands this was because Mars couldn’t state its bars were 100% dairy-free.

The packs carried a label stating while the recipes were vegan, they were made in a factory that used milk.