Letter from our Founder
This is Susie, and I am a food allergy mom to my daughter Natalie. I started Spokin because I wanted an easier way for my daughter to manage her food allergies. While we all manage different allergies and have a range of approaches, the one thing we all have in common is that we read labels and want transparency. In that spirit, I wanted to share some insight into our process for creating product guides, displaying food products on our app and using data to personalize your experience.
While it should go without saying, we state in every piece of content on our website and app and have since our earliest days: You should always take precautions and use appropriate judgment to protect yourself and others under your care with regard to food allergies. Spokin’s content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Additional information.
It’s up to each person to assess the safety of a food based on their individual needs and diagnosis. Our goal is not to tell anyone how to manage food allergies or to be the final say—we aim to be a helpful, time-saving tool—putting information in one place to make it easier, beautiful and, dare we say, fun.
Spokin Content — Food Product Guides
We regularly create content, starting with the question, “what problem can we solve?” Our food guides, in particular, aim to solve the inherent problem of food allergies limiting safe foods. It takes a lot of work to assess even a single item, let alone a whole category of food, such as ice cream or Halloween candy.
Our ultimate goal is to reduce that work. Guides by definition help steer or show the way. We would never presume we know what is definitive or best for you and your family.
Our solution is a curated list of products, typically organized into categories of those made in dedicated facilities and non-dedicated facilities. If we can help you discover new products or even a whole new brand that looks to be safe based on your unique allergies and approach, we have achieved our goal.
Our process in creating our guides involves more than 100 hours to create and meet the goals of the feature including research, ingredient checking, assessing warning labels and facility information, documentation, rechecking and then triple-checking of ingredients (we are food allergy parents too!). We always aim to create the largest guide possible because each additional item may be the only one in a guide that is an option for someone’s specific allergies.
We spend over 100 hours on our guides to save you that time, giving you a head start in your search for what fits your family’s allergies and approach and hopefully introducing you to new products you didn’t know existed.
The format of our current Food Guides includes six indicators. We have included the definition for each below.
Ingredients Do Not Contain (formerly free from): This is a list based on the product ingredient list on the packaging. Since any product can be free of an endless list of ingredients, we limit this section to the top 8 allergens and any other ingredient/allergen that the manufacturer explicitly states.
Contains: This is a list of the top 8 allergens that are in the product ingredients. If the product does not contain any top 8 allergens, it will say “N/A”. Note: the Free from and the Contains will cover all top 8 allergens.
Precautionary Label: This is either the warning label provided by the manufacturer on the product packaging or if the manufacturer hasn’t provided one, we list “none.”
Dedicated Free From (formerly facility free from): This is a list of allergens that the manufacturer declares its facility is free from. If the manufacturer does not state they are dedicated free of an allergen, we indicate “none stated.”
Allergen Statement: This is a link to the manufacturer’s allergen statement/information. If there is none, we will list “none stated.”
Certified: A recent addition added particularly to support the celiac community. We note if a product is certified gluten-free and we recently started to include Kosher due to consumer requests. If the product or facility is not certified, we list “none stated.”
Spokin App — Food Products
A food product is uploaded on the Spokin app when we feature it in a guide or a Spokin app user shares a review of it. We display the image and the product label. We include the label versus a text field because not only is it what we as allergy parents want to see, our user feedback has found value in displaying the actual label.
Customization: Each person has a customized experience on the Spokin app because it not only saves the user time by filtering out food with your identified allergens in it but also because we personally find it cringe-worthy to see food with our allergens in it. For every food product on the app, we indicate on our platform which allergens the product has in the ingredients and indicate that the app should not show it to a user with those allergens in their profile. While the FDA requires that the top 8 allergens are identified, we capture 88 allergens from our users and we do our best to identify any allergens outside the top 8 that the manufacturer has listed in the ingredient list. We maintain an extensive glossary of ingredients and the various ways an allergen could be listed that may not be obvious.
By sharing your allergens with Spokin in the app signup process, you enable us to show you only the food products that may work for you based on the ingredient list—this applies to several scenarios including:
Product Guide Carousels: When we publish product guides, we often include a carousel directly underneath that aims to only include the products that match your profile.
User reviews: We aim to only display user reviews in the app newsfeed of food products that match your profile, regardless if you follow that user.
Food product search feature: Each user sees a custom list of foods, matching their allergen profile, ranked by user reviews.
We do intend to partner with companies to help raise awareness and trust in the food-allergy community and to connect you in a value-added way to brands and companies. That means that if there is a new product launched that looks to be safe for you based on the ingredients disclosed by the manufacturer, we will make sure that we let you know about it. Conversely, if a product contains your allergen, we won’t put it in front of you on the app or in our dedicated emails.
We may also use the information on our app in efforts to raise the standard of care for the food allergy community. For example, if the majority of negative reviews for a product or business are coming from people managing sesame allergies, we can communicate that as a potential area of focus to a manufacturer or restaurant as an opportunity to better meet the needs of that group of consumers.
The Spokin guardrail, “what is best for the person managing food allergies” is the driving force behind every decision we make. The majority of the Spokin team personally manages food allergies, so it’s not just a job, it’s our life.
We are constantly evolving and there is always room for improvement. We welcome feedback—please email me at [email protected] with any comments, or just to say hi.