News Real Bread Campaign

Are Supermarket Bloomers (Still) Pants?

Eight years since publishing its original Are Supermarket Bloomers Pants? report, the Real Bread Campaign believes that what much of supermarket ‘in-store bakery’ still amounts to is little more than in-store theatre.

Loaf tannng salon products in a store where nothing is baked on site fresh from scratch

Loaf tannng salon products in a store where nothing is baked on site fresh from scratch

Observation from store visits and online research, combined with earlier research and industry inside-knowledge, and with the UK’s eight largest supermarket chains’ reluctance to answer survey questions, leads the Campaign to believe that the following practices remain endemic across the sector:

  • Not displaying full lists of ingredients and additives and other facts about the methods, time and place of production, while choosing to display subjective marketing messages
  • Bringing in loaves manufactured elsewhere, in some cases outside the UK, and rebaking in store but marketing them with claims including ‘freshly baked’, ‘baked in store’ and ‘baked throughout the day’.
  • Using the word ‘sourdough’ to market loaves made using artificial additives and/or baker’s yeast; what the Campaign calls sourfaux
  • Differentiating loaves using the word ‘artisan’ and commonly charging a premium for them, when it is unclear whether they are made by a genuine artisan baker or even using the ingredients and methods that one would employ, or using additives and other industrial processes
  • The use of refined wheat and other flours in loaves marketed as ‘wholemeal’

Other practices observed by the Campaign include the use of ‘ancient grains’ to market premium products made predominantly from highly-refined modern wheat flour and usually only a very small amount of anything that might arguably qualify for the description ‘ancient grain’; and failure always to give a quantitative ingredients declaration (QUID) for characterising ingredients that appear in loaf names.

Download the report

Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young said: “We believe that people have the right to know what they’re eating: what is used to make a loaf, as well as how, where and when it was made. Our research leads us to believe supermarkets could do a lot better to support this right.”

The many specific examples in the report that help to illustrate the general picture include:

  • Tesco advertised that loaves were ’Expertly baked in store’, even in small format stores that do not employ expert bakers to make loaves from scratch. Some of those bake-off loaves had their first bake in Ireland and France
  • Shelf labels promoted The Co-operative as ‘Your Local Bakery’. Some of the loaves were manufactured in Ireland, frozen and merely rebaked in store
  • Both Waitrose and Lidl had in-store bakery sections but neither appeared to bake and loaves from scratch
  • Loaves sold in brown paper bags under Aldi’s ‘The Village Bakery’ brand were manufactured by a company with an annual turnover of £20m, producing a million loaves a week on an industrial estate near Loughborough.
  • The Morrisons website listed 28 types of in-store bakery loaves and rolls but no ingredients list or additives information for any of them, despite offering online ordering.

To protect shoppers and help create a level playing field on which small, independent Real Bread bakery businesses can thrive, the Real Bread Campaign continues to call on the government to introduce an Honest Crust Act that will outlaw all of the above practices. In the meantime, the Campaign urges all loaf makers and retailers to end them voluntarily.

To give a fuller picture of the products and practices of individual companies, and across the sector as a whole, the Campaign invites all UK supermarket chains publically to answer all 20 of the questions that can be found in the appendix to the report.

Are Supermarket Bloomers (Still) Pants? is available to download at the Real Bread Campaign’s recently-relaunched website.

The Campaign’s site also includes a new, interactive Real Bread Map to help people find places to buy additive-free loaves; as well as classes, ingredients and equipment to help them bake their own.

This report was written before news of the tragic death Natasha Ednan-Laperouse as the result of an allergic reaction after eating a sandwich she did not know contained sesame. Read Real Bread Campaign commentary on this case, and the wider issue of loaf labelling and marketing legislation.

Are Supermarket Bloomers (Still) Pants? is based mainly on findings from Real Bread Campaign research conducted on the eight UK supermarket chains with more than 5% market share: Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. In May 2018, the Campaign began attempts to contact the bakery category manager or relevant head buyer, at each by email to ask 20 questions about their in-store bakery and other own-brand loaves.

By July 2018, The Campaign had received no answers from any of the supermarkets. We then wrote a letter to the CEO of each company, followed two weeks later by an email. None of the CEOs replied. We did receive communication from some company representatives, but not answers to any of the questions.

We therefore visited stores to look at loaf labelling and marketing materials. We also examined the retailers’ websites and other sources, including trade press. The information in this report comes from this research, which we acknowledge may give only a partial reflection of a specific company’s policies and practices but a fair overview of the sector as a whole.  

It should also be noted that as labels, marketing and websites are the primary sources of information for shoppers. As such, our research and difficulty obtaining facts is a fair reflection of their everyday experiences.

Published Thursday 11 October 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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