- Supermarket bakeries are adding labels, additional employee training and handling procedures to reassure customers with gluten sensitivity and food allergies, according to Supermarket News.
- Some retailers are sourcing gluten-free donuts from local bakery, while a few, like Coborn’s in Minnesota, have built their own dedicated gluten-free bakery. Retailers also are increasingly labeling fresh bakery items that contain or may contain peanuts, tree nuts and other common allergens.
- According to nonprofit Food Allergy Research & Education, around 15 million Americans — including one out of every 13 children below the age of 4 — suffer from food allergies.
Most customers walk up to the bakery counter and see a collection of mouth-watering sweet treats. Customers with food allergies or gluten intolerance, on the other hand, often see a minefield of uncertainty.
Without proper labeling and handling procedures that take common allergens into account, retailers could be missing out on additional sales in what’s become a red-hot category. Gluten-free customers, for example, represent a large consumer segment with increasing buying power. According to research firm Packaged Facts, U.S. sales of gluten-free products, estimated at $973 million in 2014, are projected to exceed $2 billion by 2019.
Extra testing, labeling and training procedures can be expensive, and it can be hard to find time to do in a busy department that often must worry about production and merchandising. But the payoff can be instant loyalty from customers with a food intolerance who may choose to forego other stores that don’t offer bakery labeling. Gluten-free shoppers, in particular, have a way of rewarding retailers that carefully address their needs.
Proper labeling, signage and employee training also lends an element of transparency to store bakeries that all customers, not just food sensitive ones, appreciate.
Susan Budlong, marketing and communications manager for Dave’s Fresh Marketplace which operates nine locations in Rhode Island, recently told Food Dive that because stores don’t have a dedicated facility for allergen- and gluten-free products, it posts signs around its bakery department letting customers know that it can’t guarantee products are free from cross contamination.
That’s an admirable level of transparency. And according to the Food Marketing Institute, it’s something shoppers increasingly value.