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Improving the online shopping experience for people with allergies and dietary needs

July 02, 2018 03:46 PM

Dan Owens, our online grocery development manager, writes about some new filters on the Asda website that make it easier for customers with allergies and dietary requirements to shop online without hassle…

Both my wife and my sister have got peanut allergies, so I understand how living with allergies and intolerances can make food shopping difficult. Updating the Asda Groceries website to make it easier for people with special dietary requirements was a project that meant a lot to me.

Until now my sister would spend a lot of time panicking about what she could eat, so it’s a great feeling knowing we’re able to make shopping online faster and easier for people like her who sufferwith allergies, intolerances or just follow a specific diet.

The new website functionality on the Asda Groceries website works by using filters to ensure customers only see products that match their dietary requirements. For example, my wife or sister could search for cakes using the filter to avoid all products containing nuts, and be sure that the search results only show the cakes that they can enjoy. This is already saving customers a lot of time and effort when shopping online.

It’s available on all the food items on our groceries website and matches food allergens and intolerances including nuts, gluten, dairy and lactose, as well as diets and lifestyles including vegetarian, vegan, halal and kosher. You can also sort results by a range of options including sugar, salt, carbohydrates and fat. There’s a full list of the ways you can refine results here.

We’ve also created a UK first by offering customers the ability to create custom filters. Until now, if I was looking to avoid food with peanuts or tree nuts when shopping for my wife I’d have to tick tree nuts and peanut from the list of options, but with custom filters I can take it a level further: if I select tree nuts and peanut I can save that as a custom filter, call it by her name (Katie), and it will appear across the website whenever I log in so that I can easily see products she can eat.

Until now, all the information displayed on our website has come from what’s on the packaging, but that meant that we couldn’t talk about some things we know are perfectly suitable for certain diets. The example I always use is a tin of Asda own brand chopped tomatoes. All that says on the tin is that it consists of tomatoes and tomato juice and is suitable for vegetarians. But in reality it matches over 100 other diets, including people who can’t eat gluten, vegans, people who suffer peanut allergies and so on.

So, we’ve partnered with a company called Foodmaestro to improve that and through artificial intelligence and machine learning we can now interrogate all the information on the pack, including the ingredients and any allergy information – the sort of warning that an item may contain nuts or has been made in a factory where there are nuts.

With all that information we can tell shoppers that this tin of tomatoes is also gluten free, dairy free, lactose free, vegan and so on.

We store this information on more than 25,000 items in our product catalogue and present it through filters, where customers can choose from a dropdown menu and choose a product according to their choice.

The new service is live now on our website and across the latest versions of our apps.