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Zeer for the People

What can show you. In this case, the natural smoke flavor is flagged as a potential irritant or something to avoid if you want to be sure the product is gluten-free.

You, me, Dupree: We’re all members of the “grocery food community,” a term uses in earnest. The year-old information clearinghouse, based in Cambridge, Mass., is kind of a cross between Consumer Reports (free of advertising, product reviews) and the catalog of more than 110,000 food products (nutritional analysis, allergy warnings) you wish you had instant access to while perusing store aisles….Oh, that’s right, you do. Zeer has an iPhone app for that.

The Zeer folks have recently launched Zeer Select for the subset of those who need to navigate in a gluten-free or wheat-intolerant universe. Last week, Zeer marketing veep Mark Sutton took me on a virtual tour of Zeer Select features. He says the subscription service is his company’s answer to “the vocal, passionate GF community.” The ingredients and label info for more than 30,000 products are listed, flagged with “safety alerts,” highlighted for possible allergens, searchable by brand name or category of food or UPC (bar code). Sutton says more than 500 products are added or updated each week.

A certain level of searching on Zeer Select is accessible without paying $14.95 per month. But GFers who pay the fee might quickly become accustomed to added perks such as automatically generated searches of gluten-free alternative products and My Groceries lists of preferred or verboten items; the list can be e-mailed to family and friends as an advisory, in advance of a visit or special dinner. That’s smart.

Product reviews are generated by the public, and the ones I’ve searched randomly as a non-paying Zeer seer haven’t been all that helpful. Overall, though, the site is well designed and a cinch to click through, with an impressive level of transparency about how Zeer compiles its database and consults medical experts on gluten-free matters. It will be interesting to watch the increased community traffic and product database as Zeer grows.

-- Bonnie Benwick

By The Food Section  |  July 15, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
 | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Web sites, gluten-free, shopping  
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