News / Real Bread Campaign

Pret’s progress

A commentary on changes made by the company on some of the issues first raised with its CEO by the Real Bread Campaign in 2015.

Pret is phasing out the word natural from its branding and other marketing

Pret is phasing out the word natural from its branding and other marketing

On 15 November 2018, Sustain chief executive Kath Dalmeny and Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young accepted an invitation to meet with Pret a Manger CEO Clive Schlee and Clare Clough, the company’s food and coffee director. During a positive and helpful meeting, they discussed progress by the high-street sandwich company relating to their products, labelling and marketing descriptions.

Chris Young of the Real Bread Campaign said: “We welcome the progress made by Pret since our conversation began three years ago. We’re pleased to learn that the company has switched to using what we call Real Bread for brioche and some flatbreads; has begun a trial of on-pack full ingredient declaration and has published full ingredients lists on its website; and is phasing out certain marketing claims.”‘Natural’ and additive-avoidance claims

‘Natural’ and additive-avoidance claims

Following the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upholding the Campaign’s complaint about Pret advertising its food as ‘natural’ and claiming to ‘shun’ and ‘avoid’ artificial additives, the company is now in the process of phasing out the use of these claims from the rest of marketing.

The company has removed these claims from its website; no longer uses them in new store signage, packaging design or its redesigned logo; and is removing the claims from existing store signage. The process is due to be completed sometime in 2019.

Chris Young said: “We recognised that some of the claims that Pret has been making are legacies of the way the company started back in 1986. It was good to hear that Pret is now working to bring its marketing up to date with the way the company operates today.”

Ingredient declaration

The Real Bread Campaign first encouraged Pret to display full ingredients lists at point of sale in June 2015.

On the specific issue of allergen labelling, there is a common feeling that existing legal requirements are no longer fit for purpose. Better allergen labelling is being called for by the Allergy Alliance and their members. As we previously reported, Pret is already working to go beyond the current basic legal requirements by listing allergens at point of sale and on product packaging. Clive Schlee said that they are also ‘reaching out’ to other companies in their industry with a view to agreeing a common approach that better reflects the growing incidence and seriousness of food allergies.

Clive Schlee told us that Pret will be “trialling a label stating the product name and declared allergens together with a both a digital link and physical access to the full ingredient list. Pret will then survey customers including allergy sufferers to establish which method of labelling they find most helpful in making an informed choice.”

Following the meeting, on 30 November 2018, Clive Schlee announced on his blog that Pret had started a full ingredients labelling trial at one of its London outlets. Pret also recently published full ingredients lists on its website.

Artificial additives

The Real Bread Campaign’s original correspondence with Clive Schlee included encouraging Pret to remove all artificial additives from all of the loaves, baguettes, wraps etc. it uses.

At the meeting, Clare Clough advised that the brioche and flatbread used by Pret is now additive-free, the single criterion of the Campaign’s basic Real Bread definition. She added that the reasons for Pret still using other wraps, loaves, baguettes containing a ‘limited number’ of artificial additives fell into three categories: Food products being fit for purpose (an example being loaf slices not tearing when spread with butter), customer safety, and manufacturers’ ability to make a product that meets Pret’s needs. The Real Bread Campaign still believes that all three are possible without additives.

Clive Schlee said that the company had investigated switching to using what the Campaign calls Real Bread for more products, but the company’s current supplier and another bakery said they had been unable to do so, while a third declined the invitation to tender.

Freshness claims

Chris Young questioned whether the average shopper would understand Pret’s claim of ‘a wonderful baker’s oven (indeed, some have two). We bake throughout the day, the fresher the better,’ to mean part-baked baguettes manufactured in France, frozen for a 12-month shelf life and then rebaked in store, as reported by The Daily Mail.

Clive Schlee pointed out that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had rejected the Campaign’s complaint about Pret using claims of freshness to promote products that are part-baked, frozen and then rebaked in store. “I don’t think it’s unfair to stick with that ruling,” he said. He added that “It wouldn’t be possible to have scratch bakeries in our stores and we don’t say that we do.”

Clare Clough said that no product is held by Pret for 12 months before sale and that the baguette defrosting and rebaking happens at intervals throughout the day: “Baked at 4am and sold at 4pm? No, we wouldn’t have that. It wouldn’t be very nice and the bread would be hard to work with.”

A final comment from the Real Bread Campaign

Chris Young said: “Back in 2015, I contacted Clive Schlee, Pret’s CEO, with the recognition that the company does indeed do some things better than its competitors, and also in the hope that Pret could become – as I put it – a Real Bread leader. Our meeting in 2018 showed that the company has been putting real effort into evolving its products, labelling and marketing descriptions, in line with what we call on them, and all food companies, to do. We look forward to continuing the conversation and being able to share more demonstrations of leadership by Pret and others following suit by taking up these important challenges.”

Published 4 Dec 2018

Real Bread Campaign: The Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. Whether your interest is local food, community-focussed small enterprises, honest labelling, therapeutic baking, or simply tasty toast, everyone is invited to become a Campaign supporter.

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