Over the last 4 years I have been to the Allergy & Free From Show as a visitor, exhibitor and speaker. As an allergic person I am personally interested & invested in the show and rooting for its continued success and expansion. However there is one thing I’ve noticed that many exhibitors forget. They have forgotten the most important thing about their customers: they have severe food allergies and or coeliac disease.
You might think “that’s ridiculous, how can we forget about our target audience?” Well from personal experience, many businesses do.
As an allergy sufferer I know a business is not catering to my demographic (supposedly your target audience) when they cannot confidently tell me what ingredients are included in the food they are serving or the allergen information. Basically they have forgotten one of the most important parts of allergic living, not to mention not following EU rules.
Why The Allergy & Free From Show is Brilliant
For businesses, exhibitions are a brilliant place to interact with your target audience. If free from customers are your audience, the Allergy & Free From Show gather your ideal customers in one place. That’s why you as a business go to exhibitions after all.
You can not only reach potential new customers but also connect and build a stronger relationship with your current customers. You can also do market research. Many allergy parents and allergy sufferers want to tell you about themselves, their allergies and their needs. Most of the time companies will pay huge amounts of money for focus groups. The information you can gather at the show is a bonus!
Just listen to when I interviewed Elizabeth D Bakes, she confirms that as someone with no allergies herself the Allergy & Free From Shows were invaluable for her business to get to know their customers better!
Why You Are Shooting Yourself in the Foot
As someone with a life threatening allergy, when caterers or businesses “umm” and “ahh” about whether there are nuts in the food or a may contain, my automatic answer is “no, thanks” and I move on to the next place. (And this has happened pretty much every year I have visited the show unfortunately.)
The problem for you as a business is, I will tell my other allergy friends and my customers that your business has no idea what you are talking about and don’t bother trying. In that short interaction you have lost 1 customer for sure, and potentially whoever else I talk to…That could be a lot of customers in a day or a weekend.
I acknowledge I may not be your target audience, but if you are a advertising to be allergy friendly in some way, you need to know the facts of your product.
Even if I cannot eat your product, if you know your product ingredients and allergen information, I will thank you! If it’s not safe I would rather you tell me it’s not safe rather than bend the truth and I end up in hospital. (This is what I tell my coaching clients too.)
If you can be honest about what it is and isn’t free from, I would be more likely to recommend you to someone else I know who might enjoy your products even if I’m allergic. That little bit of preparation to know your product and talk to me, your customer, could have gained you customers.
What it All Comes Down To
It all comes down to trust. As I have just said, if an allergy sufferers cannot trust you they will not buy from you. Although you may be targeting the vegan market primarily, which usually has more disposable income to spend than the allergy community, to discount the allergy community completely simply on this point would be wrong.
The allergy community are the most loyal customers.
1️⃣ For one, allergies are often for life.
2️⃣ Second, when we know a product is safe, we will stick with you.
Two Sides to the Story…
Think about your own life. If you or your child likes a certain food, you will probably buy that brand over another when it’s convenient.
On the other hand, if you are dealing with life threatening allergies, if there is only one brand/product that won’t kill you or your child, you will stick with that product. When your friends, family, colleagues or your child’s school ask what they can buy for you thats safe you will say, “product xyz is safe, buy this one, don’t buy others.” Not only that, for allergy kids people will travel for that safe product, which in business terms means super customer which equals £$€.
This allergy customer could have found your product at the Allergy & Free From Show. They also now trust you because you took that little extra time to prepare and then talk to them. Now they are shouting your praises from the rooftops and tell everyone they know to buy your products. So you can see what a knock on effect just simply being clear on the ingredients and allergen information can do.
See how some of my customers reacted to my chocolate truffles >>>
How You Can Prepare Your Business for Exhibiting at the Allergy and Free From Show
- Know the ingredients of your product.
- Know the allergen information and potential cross-contamination.
- Know how each product is manufactured and potential cross-contamination risks (including supplier line).
- If making fresh food at the exhibition, make sure your staff, after they’ve had a snack break or lunch, do not contaminate the food with allergens!
- Train all your staff working at the exhibition on the above 4 points!
- Have an allergen information sheet easily visible for people to look at.
- Take the time to talk to your customers and answer their questions.
- Be honest and truthful!
I will be speaking at the Allergy & Free From London 2018 on Friday 6th July 3pm on Travelling with Allergies and Sunday 8th July at 3pm about Beat Allergy Anxiety and Building Confidence. Come and say hi after one of my talks or if you see me walking around please introduce yourself 🙂
Alternatively, for more information or to work with me please send me an email.
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Summer is coming and that means days out in the sunshine! (*fingers crossed*)
Over the last few months many of you in the Eat Allergy Safe Community have been emailing asking how to stay allergy safe this summer. One particular email asked specifically about Liverpool. (It is also around this time I started writing my Travelling with Allergies Guide – published soon!) A couple weeks later I was asked by the lovely people at Groupon whether I would write about things to do in Liverpool, the stars felt like they were aligning!
Liverpool is one of my favourite cities in England so I thought this was a great opportunity to talk about how I go about planning an allergy safe day out and some of the fun things you can do in Liverpool.
So lets get on with…
Part 1: How to Plan an Allergy Safe Day Out
- Research where you are going
Seems obvious, but it really is the first place to start. If you’re going to a new place don’t assume it will be the same as home. Depending on your allergies you may not find safe foods at take aways or restaurants, unless you know where to look!
Doing some research will also give you a feel for the place and give you an idea of not only what foods you want to try but also what sites you want to see. The docks and museums are my favourite place.
- Make a list of all the things you want to do, places you want to see and restaurants you want to eat at
You probably have a limited amount of time so you will want to fit in as much as possible. Making a list will help you decide the places you most want to visit, and also give you a handy quick reference of where you need to do some allergen menu checking.
When you make your list, remember to note down an email address and or telephone number too.
- Call or email ahead
Remember that list you just made and the contact details noted? Set aside 30 minutes to 1 hour to go through the list calling any of the places you think you may want to eat at.
When you call, you are calling for information first. Tell them you are coming on holiday and doing some research on where might be safe to eat with your allergies and can you just ask them about their allergy policy. This is also the time you can tell them about your specific allergy needs and find out whether they could cater for you or not.
If they say no, don’t be disheartened! It is better for them to be honest with you rather than you have a reaction because they lied!!
Read more about how to tell people about your allergies >>
- Have a schedule/itinerary (optional)
If you want to see lots and lots, having an itinerary listing out how to get places, what time to leave/arrive, where to get tickets, where to eat, along with contact numbers, can be incredibly handy! It takes some of the stress out the day because you know what to do when, and most importantly where you can eat! This means you have more time to relax and enjoy your day out on holiday.
- Double check allergen information with manager/caterer
As you do at home, when eating out or buying food, always double and triple check the allergen and ingredients labelling. This might mean reading a product packet or emailing a restaurant, and talking to the restaurant manager and your server when you arrive.
In the EU, all food whether packaged or open must be able to give ingredients and allergy information, and we have the top 14 allergens.
Read more about my allergy travel hacks >>
- Pack safe snacks
Like you do at home, have an allergy safe snack in your bag. You never know if something unexpected will come up (that’s why its unexpected…) so its best to be prepared. I know I don’t think straight nor am I reasonable when I’m hungry, so having something I can nibble on and keep the hunger pangs at bay really does help keep me calm and meet a challenge head on.
Part 2: Things to Do in Liverpool
Now that you know how to plan a day out, here are some recommendations for restaurants and fun things to do in Liverpool!
For dairy and egg allergy sufferers, there are now lots of vegan food offerings all over the city from small cafes to big chain restaurants. Nuts on the whole aren’t used in typical British food, but could be found in the ‘health’ food salads, and of course desserts are still a mine field.
Red’s True BBQ – many of the menu items don’t contain gluten, and none of the mains items contain nuts (as of when I last went).
Trattoria 51 – said to be incredibly allergy friendly with understanding staff (that’s half the battle!) and a gluten and dairy free menu.
Leaf – really good labelling of gluten free, contains nuts and vegan options. The menu looks delicious and I’ve heard some great recommendations!
Nation-wide Chains: Carluccio’s, Pizza Express, Bella Italia all have a gluten free menu and understanding when I say I have a nut allergy. Many have dairy free options too!
Food on the Go
There isn’t a one shop sells everything that is suitable for allergy sufferers unfortunately, not when you are in a hurry. So food on the go is picnic style. My standard way is grab some cold meats, cheese (there are many dairy free options now too), a take away salad or gluten free sandwich and some fruit and thats lunch. I usually have some leftover, so that’s the afternoon’s snack too. Here’s where I shop:
Marks & Spencers supermarket have without a doubt the best food-on-the-go selection! Their aim is the gluten free market however, their sandwiches don’t have nut warnings, nor do most of the cold meat selections. For nut allergy sufferers, items are clearly marked when they are not suitable.
Tesco supermarket is the next on the list of allergy friendly food on the go. Again, primarily targeted at the gluten free market, but they are starting to add in more dairy and egg free options for desserts and savoury crackers.
Places to Visit
Day at Albert Dock & the Museums
The docks are on the water front and you can see the old industrial architecture has been preserve. The buildings are now how to museums such as the Tate, Beetles Museum and the Maritime Museum. You could easily spend a day just on the Albert Dock and a picnic (if the sun’s shining) overlooking the water is wonderful!
Evening at the Theatre
Liverpool is a metropolitan city with a great night life. Part of that night life is the theatres. Many of the big London shows will tour to Liverpool on their way round the country and you have everything from Shakespeare to Pantomime, Ballet to Opera, and comedy!
Things to Do
If you, or your kids, want a bit more adventure on their holiday, you will find something for even the pickiest! Get involved with activities such as paint-balling, bowling, funfairs, trampolining, treasure hunts and open air bus tours. Groupon on always has some fantastic deals for things to do in Liverpool so make sure click on the “Things to do” title above!
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