Demand for ‘free-from’ dishes after new EU allergens law is introduced
RESTAURATEURS are being encouraged to go beyond the recent EU requirements on allergen information and introduce ‘free-from’ dishes to their menus.
As of December 13, 2014, restaurants must inform customers if dishes contain any of 14 named ingredients (see table opposite).
Foodservice consultancy Horizons, however, reckons restaurants stand to gain from introducing dedicated ‘free-from’ dishes.
“We have been monitoring consumer demand for free-from dishes for some time now,” said Emma Read, director of marketing at the firm.
“Demand has risen considerably this year and a number of the big chain operators are already embracing the free-from concept by offering dedicated menus of gluten-free dishes.
“Operators are not only competing with each other on quality, price and ambience, but increasingly on the dishes they have on their menus.
“A willingness to include free-from dishes will be important to attract a certain segment of the population.”
In a survey of foodservice operators in October last year, Horizons found 78% acknowledged the importance of gluten-free dishes and 60% said dairy-free dishes had become important.
“We are going to continue to see a big change over the next 12 months as foodservice operators realise that a growing number of consumers are concerned with free-from dishes,” said Read.
“Operators need to go further than the legislation dictates and make this an important part of their marketing mix.”
A number of companies and organisations worked to educate their staff and memberships about the new EU directives towards the end of the year.
Pub company Punch Taverns issued a Food Allergens Information Pack to its lessees to ensure they knew everything they needed to about the new law.
Alan Todd, Punch’s head of catering development, said: “We have been sending out information and communicating with our licensees for some time now to ensure they are informed of what they need to do.
“All of our team of catering development managers, nationally, are available to advise and support our licensees with all the resources and support we have available.”
NHS figures show 2% of people suffer from a food allergy and a further 20% believe they might.
The British Hospitality Association said complying with the rules is a “significant burden” on hospitality suppliers and restaurants.
But Jackie Grech, legal and policy director of The Restaurant Association, said the rules could ultimately be of benefit to the restaurant industry.
She said: “Food allergies can cause very serious health problems.
“In this industry success is measured one customer at a time. Make no mistake, the Food Allergens Regulation will be challenging and cumbersome to implement, especially for small businesses and it is fraught with practical difficulties.
“But, if it serves the customer, then it serves the industry too.”