Mike Edmunds, managing director of software supplier Trade Interchange, discusses the importance of effectively managing allergen information within drink supply chains.




The allergens epidemic
With a recent issue around food allergen labelling resulting in a fatal allergic reaction for a UK consumer, the discussion around allergen management within the supply chain has never been more at the forefront. Previously media focus has been on allergens in food, but as awareness of this issue grows, the drinks industry must ensure it is leading a conversation on how allergens in drink products are managed. This will ensure maximum clarity for consumers who are becoming more and more engaged in this issue.

The hit list: 14 allergens
An allergy to alcohol in itself is rare. However there are currently 14 allergens which must be labelled under EU law. Of these 14 allergens, those most pertinent to the drinks industry include: cereals such as wheat, rye and barley, which are commonly used in beers, lagers and ciders; milk and egg proteins, which are often part of the fining process in wine production; and sulphites, which are added to many finished drinks products to help preserve them. As well as this, allergens which are used in alcohol distillates – such as almonds used to flavour gin – can be part of modern spirit production. A recent Trade Interchange Round Table held with key foodservice and hospitality heads found that whilst the legislation around these 14 allergens is widely recognised as useful for knowing what to report on, understanding how to collect and manage the information needs greater clarity.

The challenge
The difficulty for operators is navigating the complexity of allergen labelling and compliance in often complicated supply chains. For example, as a pub group you may buy the majority of your drinks from one wholesaler, whilst making smaller direct orders with local suppliers. Additionally, drinks selections in pubs and bars are becoming increasingly varied, featuring options like craft beers and rotating seasonal ales which often contain unusual ingredients. What's more, each and every product from each and every supplier is likely to have a plethora of ingredient providers. Relying on a variety of different systems which record allergen data and other supply chain information means managing data can be a huge headache. With information not only needing to be collected, but also continuously updated and then communicated out to customers, it's no surprise that this can seem a daunting task for pubs and bars.

Finding a solution
With the UK leaving the EU we are likely to see change in patterns of production, trade and consumption, making it more essential that ever to arm those managing food and drink procurement with the tools to prevent allergen crises. Not only can allergen issues be highly dangerous for consumers, but can also cause reputational brand damage with catastrophic consequences.

We're working with all areas of the hospitality industry to provide solutions which help to simplify the data collection process. Specialist software such as Trade Interchange's ARCUS® Supplier Information Management Software (SIM) module exists to ease the administrative burden and minimise human error. The software enables suppliers to upload key information that operators require – such as allergen policies – and provide them with all of the necessary compliance data.

The system allows automated emails and reminders prompts to be set up to ensure systems are continuously kept up to date. New plug-in functionality within SIM means it can be seamlessly integrated with third-party systems such as the Fourth Recipe and Menu Engineering solution, allowing operators to automatically generate accurate nutritional information for products/meals that are being created with various ingredients. With increased data accuracy and greater supply chain clarity, pubs and bars can easily mitigate against the potential risks of allergens, and instead focus their efforts on doing what they do best.

Trade Interchange has released the White Paper On High Alert: Allergens in the Foodservice and Hospitality Supply Chain, which delves deeper into this topic and provides recommendations for supply chain allergen information management. Download it for free here: https://tradeinterchange.com/resources/allergens-in-the-supply-chain-white-paper/