‘As part of a major investment programme in our facilities, we will arrange our current production lines to be dedicated to producing rice, soya and oat drinks or almond, hazelnut and coconut drinks. Any avoidable risk of cross contamination is thus excluded, which means the warning (‘may contain traces of almond and hazelnuts’) can be removed from our soya, rice and oat drink products and our plant-based alternatives to cream and desserts.’
As many of your will be aware this is the culmination of a high profile and passionate campaign by nut, and nut and milk allergy sufferers (especially the parents of children with nut or nut and milk allergies). They were attempting to persuade Alpro to reverse their decision to move the manufacture of their very successful almond and nut milks into the factory which already produced their soya, rice and oat drinks and desserts. Combining manufacture on the same lines would effectively bar any nut allergic person from using the nut-free products as they would now carry an ‘nut warning’.
The move made good commercial sense from Alpro’s point of view. But, from the start they were aware that it could cause problems for their nut and nut and dairy allergic customers. This was not so much because the products were to be manufactured on the same lines (good modern practice allows joint lines to be used with vanishingly small risk of cross contamination) but, because the products had previously carried a ‘manufactured in a dedicated nut-free facility’ flash, they felt they had to now alert their customers to the change by adding a ‘may contain nuts’ warning.
But while this might have been a laudable and responsible move, it caused immense distress and uproar within the nut allergic world – a far greater furore that Alpro in their wildest dreams had anticipated. (For the full story see my blogs earlier this year – 21/1, 3/2). The problem was that the addition of a ‘may contain nuts’ warning meant, effectively, that no parent or carer of a nut/nut and dairy allergic child, or school serving nut/nut and dairy allergic children, would any longer use the Alpro products as none would take the risk implied by a nut warning.
Had the Alpro products been ‘just another product on the shelf’ this would have been inconvenient but not disastrous, but they weren’t. Alpro nut free milks, creams and desserts were an absolute staple product for nut allergic, and especially for nut and dairy allergic, children. They were, effectively, the only milk or dessert these children could eat that was widely available at a reasonable price. Even worse, Alpro made, literally, the only nut-free, dairy-free follow on milk, Junior +1, for nut and dairy allergic toddlers who, if they could no longer use it, would need to be put back on prescription formula at a massively increased cost.
As a result a campaign was launched, meetings were set up with Alpro and a wide range of organisations at every level got involved. Alpro for a while stood firm but it soon became clear that, however good their intentions may have been in alerting their nut allergic customers to the change, the change itself had really not been a good idea and was doing immense harm to the Alpro brand’s reputation, whatever about their sales.
The first chink came in March when they announced that they would continue to produce their Junior +1 follow on milk in a nut free facility thus obviating the need for ‘may contain’ warnings. (See this blog.) Since then, it has all gone quiet but obviously, Alpro have continue to review the situation and have now come up with this more than acceptable solution.
Whether their final decision has been driven by a drop in sales (although, interestingly, they had no idea what proportion of their products was actually bought by nut/dairy allergies as opposed to vegetarians), the damage to their reputation, or a genuine concern for their nut/nut and dairy allergic customers we will never know – but let us at least assume the last! But whatever the reason, it is extremely good news and proves yet again that people power can work!!