A membership charity app to be proud of

09 Oct 2019

Entry to the 2020 memcom membership excellence awards is now open.


What makes a great membership app? This article focuses on one membership charity that has certainly got its app right. Indeed, Coeliac UK took home the hotly contested ‘Best App’ award at the 2019 memcom membership excellence awards back in June for its Gluten Free Food Checker app.


The background…

Coeliac UK is the expert voice on the gluten free diet; the go to charity organisation for those needing to follow a gluten free diet due to coeliac disease and other medical conditions so they can make an informed choice and find suitable food and drink products. Coeliac disease is not an allergy or a food intolerance, it’s an autoimmune condition where the body attacks itself when gluten is eaten. The only treatment for coeliac disease is a strict gluten free diet, for life.

But it’s not always easy to understand food product labels which can be confusing to consumers, especially when people are first diagnosed. And although the law surrounding gluten free labelling has been in place since 2009, they may contain statements and other allergen labelling that makes a ‘simple’ data algorithm powering an app a lot more complicated.

The Gluten Free Food Checker app is available as part of a Coeliac UK membership and makes shopping for gluten free food and drink products safer and easier. It’s a tailored service where the community can find suitable products for their gluten free diet and other dietary needs. Coeliac UK also used this app to relaunch their Food Information Service across multiple platforms providing members with personalised, reliable information to help them live well gluten free.


Hilary Croft, Coeliac UK CEO said: “Making life easier for those living gluten free is at the heart of what we do. It is wonderful to have one of our flagship services recognised with a memcom award, which acknowledges our continued improvements to deliver tailored content for a better user experience.”


What does the app offer?

An extensive source of information

The app includes a number of brilliant features, including a barcode scanner for 150,000 gluten free and mainstream products, ready-made lists to help make shopping easier, and product ingredients, nutritional information and support on understanding more complex ingredients to make sure the community chooses the most suitable products for them. And it’s not all about gluten – Coeliac UK understands that their members (and their families) have other dietary needs in addition to a gluten free diet. This could be dairy, nut and gluten free for example. The app therefore provides key information on these other dietary needs too. Nearly 5,000 members have selected additional dietary preferences.

The charity is also able to better profile products that are part of its Crossed Grain licencing scheme (Europe’s leading gluten free certification scheme) and create more opportunities for members to find out about the latest product updates, food alerts and new products to try.

Personalised, tailored service

Due to the personalisation of dietary preferences, members have to login to use the service so the charity is able to capture insights on how people search for products, which in turn helps Coeliac UK to improve and develop the offering even further.

Omnichannel approach

After trialling the app’s functionality with their membership community for a year, they took the next step and linked the app service with their web platform, giving users a broader choice on how they can access information to support their diet.

Coeliac UK’s print service has been updated too. 23% of the membership base do not have access to digital resources and they wanted to make sure that they also benefitted from the revamped service. A publication with 150,000 products wasn’t viable but the charity worked hard to refine the publication with the content they need most as well as incorporating print friendly versions of the ready-made lists and additional ingredients checklists.

The Food Information Service now provides a consistent omnichannel approach, giving members tailored, trustworthy information.

The results

  • There have been over 420,000 product searches across the app and website in 2018
  • 88% more members using the app since 2017
  • 16% of users have added additional dietary preferences
  • Over 1600 lapsed members have reactivated their membership with 50% saying their reason to reactivate it was to access the Gluten Free Food Checker app.

memcom judges’ comments:

“The judges were struck by the sheer scale and ambition of this app. It creates access to a database of over 150,000 products, and extensive functionality enables the members to personalise content. Framed within a smart and well-presented design, the app forms part of a clever cross-media solution for members. The judges recognised the complexity of the development task for the app, and the willingness to develop the product post launch, trialling the new functionality with its membership community in order to give users a broader a choice. Excellent evidence of the impact of the app and robust stats.”

Coeliac UK is the oldest and largest charity working for those who need to live gluten free. For 50 years they have been helping people with coeliac disease and other gluten related conditions live happier, healthier lives. They do this by striving for better gluten free food in more places, providing independent, trustworthy advice and support and funding crucial research to manage the impacts of gluten and find answers to coeliac disease. And they do it all so that one day no one’s life will be limited by gluten.

The memcom membership excellence awards is an annual awards event which showcases the progressive work coming out of the membership sector – work which shines a light on creativity, innovation, impact, fine leadership and the advancement of professionalism and key social causes. Entry to the 2020 memcom awards open on Friday 11th October. Please sign up to our newsletter for the latest membership sector insights and updates and offers from memcom.