While awareness of food allergens is continuing to grow, allergen information relating to alcohol has gone relatively under the radar. Here, Mike Edmunds, co-founder and managing director of Trade Interchange, a leading supplier management software provider, discusses how pubs, bars and breweries can tackle the task of supplier management in relation to allergens in beverages.
The ‘free-from’ phenomenon is fast becoming an established consumer trend. An increasing number of breweries and drinks operators are factoring allergen-free products into their food offering to harness the trend for commercial advantage. However, in order to tap into the ‘free-from’ market, the beverage sector has to navigate the arguably complex landscape of allergen compliance.
Two years ago, the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation came into force, urging businesses to create accurate and up to date allergen information about their products.
For the beverage industry, although regulations state that alcoholic drinks with more than 1.2% volume of alcohol do not require an ingredients list, establishments now need to declare the presence of any substances or products derived from the Annex II list.
Mike Edmunds of Trade Interchange
The list includes 14 common allergens found in food and drink, namely: celery, gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya and sulphur dioxide/sulphites).
In the case of the drinks sector, gluten and sulphites tend to be the most widely sighted allergens due to their presence in beers and wines. That said, according to guidelines, wines and wine fining agents derived from egg and milk can mean operators need to also consider other compliance regulations.
According to recent research undertaken on behalf of Trade Interchange, 69% of foodservice businesses feel exposed to allergen legislation and the associated risks.
In order to meet regulations, a raft of supplier information needs to be collected, organised, continuously updated and communicated across the business and to customers. This can be a daunting task for pubs and bars, which often have complex supply bases and busy schedules.
There are several methods generally used for recording, updating and maintaining this information, ranging from paper-based systems and manual spreadsheets to specialist software.
Each varies in efficiency and effectiveness, for example, paper or spreadsheet-based methods can be notoriously difficult and time consuming to manage – as well as being subject to human error.
In response to this, the industry is increasingly turning to central data monitoring solutions, such as Supplier Information Management software (SIM), which are specifically designed to improve the way risks are managed.
Online supplier information management systems enable suppliers to upload key information that drinks operators require, such as allergen policies, and provide them with all of the necessary compliance data instantly.
By using specialist technology, such as Trade Interchange’s ARCUS® SIM software, automated email alerts and reminder prompts can be set up. This means suppliers can update information in line with the user’s requirements, and helps to ensure pubs and bars have an accurate supply chain database.
Not only is it vital for information to be up-to-date, it’s also important any supplier database is easy to maintain, so it doesn’t become outdated or neglected. Recent research showed that 60% of foodservice operators surveyed use manual systems to manage supplier information.
Investing in comprehensive digital systems allows businesses to store all supplier information online, and access it quickly and easily from one central place, making managing allergen information a lot more palatable.
Trade Interchange helps organisations reduce the costs, risks and complexities associated with managing a large supplier base.