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ASA ruling: Allinson

The Advertising Standards Authority's September 2012 ruling on a complaint by the Real Bread Campaign about an advertisement for Allinson brand loaves.

Allinson advertisement ruling

'If a picture paints...' then the Advertising Standards Authority has allowed Allied Bakeries a thousand words to say 'Allinson Today' is made by hand.

On 26 April 2012 the Real Bread Campaign submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about marketing of Allinson brand loaves.

The ASA finally published its final adjudication only a week short of five months later on Wednesday 19 September 2012.

NB The wording of the draft recommendation and final adjudication is the same. All links were working at the time of the complaint and publication here.

See also:

The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) 12th edition, 1 September 2010

Real Bread Campaign complaint

26 April 2012

Part of the charity Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, the Real Bread Campaign finds ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet.

As a counterpoint to championing what we call Real Bread and the people helping to bring it back to the hearts of our local communities, we challenge practices that we see as barriers to its rise.

The Real Bread Campaign believes that a current print advertisement (in publications including both The Observer Magazine and Observer Food Monthly on 22 April 2012) and website www.allinsonbread.com promoting the industrial loaves marketed under the Allinson brand is misleading and in part factually incorrect. As such we believe it breaches rules 1.1, 1.2, 3.1. 3.3, 3.6 and 15.2 of The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code).

Not handmade
Named after Dr. Thomas Allinson, Allinson brand loaves are now produced by Allied Bakeries, a division of ABF Grain Products Limited, which is owned by Associated British Foods (ABF) which also has companies as diverse as AB Enzymes and Primark in its portfolio.

The first cause of our concern is the picture of hands kneading dough under the heading ‘Allinson Today’. We feel that the choice and placement of this image is intentional and a deliberate attempt to mislead people into believing that skilled hand bakers are still involved somehow in the production of the wrapped, sliced Allinson factory loaf depicted at the bottom of the advertisement, and so breaches section 3.1 of the CAP Code.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not how loaves are manufactured by ‘Allinson Today’. Today Allied Bakeries manufactures loaves by the Chorleywood ‘Bread’ Process  (CBP), or a variant thereof, leaving them untouched by the hand of a skilled baker. As even the company’s own website states: ‘our mixers speed the process and remove the need for kneading the dough.’     

The choice and placement of this image is not accidental and cannot even be taken as some casual marketing play on any supposed ‘heritage’ of the product being advertised. It is not intended to allude to how other companies or individuals might or might not be making loaves or even what they might be doing with Allinson brand flour – which bizarrely is produced by The Silver Spoon Company, a business of British Sugar plc, rather than the ABF Grain Products Limited arm of the empire.

Any argument along the lines of people being unlikely to take the imagery as intended to represent the manufacturing process would be, at best, naïve. Most people have not even heard of the CBP, let alone know that this high speed, added fat, artificial additive laden factory system, which creates fewer jobs per loaf than a small, local independent Real Bread bakery, does not involve hand kneading or shaping. This advertisement does nothing to dispel any such mythical connection that people may have in their minds. We believe that the reason an image of hands kneading dough was placed under the heading ‘Allinson Today’ for exactly the opposite reason - to help form or reinforce a subconscious, romanticised link in people’s minds between Allinson factory loaves and handmade Real Bread with the latter’s associated positive connotations – a link that simply does not exist.  Why else would a decision have been taken to place that particular image under the heading ‘Allinson Today’, and a picture of sack of flour in the section on Dr. Allinson, rather than vice versa as would have been more appropriate factually?

Any remaining connection between Allinson loaves and the traditions of hand baking and the heritage of Dr. Allinson’s work was finally severed by using CBP to make the loaves, and we believe that to use an image that suggests otherwise is highly misleading.

Unnecessary extras
The advertisement makes reference to the ‘…pure whole grain flour at the heart of an Allinson loaf.’ We believe that this statement breaches rules 1.2, 3.1 and 3.3 of the CAP Code.

All that is needed to make a loaf of leavened Real Bread is flour and water. Yeasts that occur naturally in the flour can be cultured to raise the loaf, though it is now more common in Britain to use commercially produced baker’s yeast. In small amounts, salt also performs a number of useful functions in bread making and, whilst not essential (as any Tuscan baker will tell you), is generally accepted as a basic ingredient of bread.  Anything else is, by definition, unnecessary for making plain bread.

We challenge the use of the word ‘pure’, as all products in the current Allinson range (‘wholemeal batch loaf’, sunflower and pumpkin batch loaf’, ‘brown batch with a taste of sourdough’, and ‘brown snack rolls’) reveal long lists of unnecessary extras, both as ingredients and as artificial additives, as set out below. Is this a marketing equivalent of what magicians call misdirection? ‘Look over here at the ‘pure’ wholemeal flour in this hand, whilst I slip in a whole cocktail of other flours and more unnecessary extras with the other.’

The arteries of the wholewheat flour ‘heart’ of the current Allinson so-called ‘wholemeal’ loaf are clogged by many unnecessary extras. They include artificial additives: mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471), mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E472e aka DATEM) and ascorbic acid (E300),  and functional but unnecessary ingredients: vegetable oil, vinegar, molasses, and sugar. This we feel breaches the spirit of the CAP Code and so rule 1.2.

So, to reference an old Allinson slogan - not so much a case of ‘nowt taken out’ as ‘plenty thrown in’?

And that’s before you ask whether or not Allied Bakeries use any processing aids and choose not to declare them on the label.  Frustratingly, the law does not require industrial bakers to list on their products additives they deem to be ‘processing aids’, but nor does it require them to emblazon its wrappers with marketing statements like ‘with the taste of sourdough’, as Allied Bakeries has opted to do on its Allinson brown loaf.  Is Allied Bakeries able to deny it uses any such processing aids, and if not is it willing to make a voluntary declaration on the wrapper of those it does use?

What we see as advertising sleight-of-hand continues with the phrase ‘…the bread still contains the whole grain, still has no artificial preservatives…’  There are a number of problems with this sentence.

Unlike certain other industrial loaves, Allinson products are not currently laced with the anti-fungal preservative agent calcium propionate, but as noted above, however, they do contain DATEM, a function of which is to slow staling. We suggest that a synthetic substance used to prolong the appearance of freshness is, by definition, an artificial preservative, and so makes this claim is misleading.

We also ask would ‘currently has no artificial preservatives’ be a more accurate claim than ‘still has no…’? The word ‘still’ implies that Allinson brand loaves have always been free of artificial preservatives. We have found what we believe to be evidence that this is not the case.

Ingredients lists for a previous formulation of ‘Allinson Wholemeal Batch’ loaves appear at mysupermarket.co.uk  and bakestone.co.uk , both showing ‘Preservative: Calcium Propionate (added to inhibit mould growth)’.  Though it would be good news if Allied Bakeries has indeed removed at least one unnecessary artificial additive (as long as it has not replaced its function with a hidden processing aid) from a product, wouldn’t this removal make the use of the word ‘still’ misleading? We think it would.

The wholemeal truth?
We believe that without further qualification the use of the word ‘wholemeal’ in the advertisement, on the website and in the image of the wrapped modern product, breaches rules 1.1, 3.1 and 3.3 of the CAP Code.

It may be helpful for the ASA to see the official definition of ‘wholemeal’ and the rules for its use. Section 6 of The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 states:

1) There shall not be used in the labelling or advertising of bread, as part of the name of the bread, whether or not qualified by other words -

(a) the word ‘wholemeal’ unless all the flour used as an ingredient in the preparation of the bread is wholemeal;[our italics]
(b) the word ‘wheat germ’ unless the bread has an added processed wheat germ content of not less than 10 per cent calculated on the dry matter of the bread.

(2) No person shall sell or advertise for sale any bread in contravention of this regulation.

Reading the ingredients list of Allinson’s so-called ‘wholemeal’ loaf – something that one does not have the opportunity to do when viewing the print advertisement in, say, an underground train – we see the following further unnecessary extra ingredients listed: wheat protein, malted barley flour, oat bran, and soya flour.

We understand the wheat protein listed to be dried powdered gluten, which by definition is not wholegrain flour. It is a highly-refined fraction of wheat, extracted from the central endosperm of the grain after the nutritionally-dense germ and highly fibrous bran have been removed.  As the name makes clear, oat bran is bran - not wholegrain oat flour.

As for the malted barley flour and soya flour – are these wholemeal flours or again is only part of each being used?

To be clear, it is evident that:

  1. Not all the flour used as an ingredient of the Allinson so-called ‘wholemeal’ loaf is wholegrain wheat flour.
  2. Not even all of the wheat flour used as an ingredient of the Allinson so-called ‘wholemeal’ loaf is wholegrain.

We believe, therefore, not only is the advertisement misleading to people in a country where wheat is the predominant source of flour, and so where people should be able to expect that, unless otherwise stated, the only flour from which a loaf would be made will be wheat, but also likely to be untruthful in using the term ‘wholemeal’ for a loaf in which wholemeal wheat flour has been diluted with soya, barley, and fractions of wheat and oats.

Other problematic claims
We believe that the statement ‘Thomas succeeded in his crusade to bring wholemeal to the whole nation...’ is an exaggeration as:

  • his was not the only campaign to increase the consumption of wholemeal at the time - Lord Northcliffe’s championing of the Standard Bread Campaign for wholemeal bread in The Daily Mail in 1911 is a notable example.
  • even despite wartime legislation, by the end of Dr. Allinson’s life in 1918, the government could not assure that the ‘whole nation’ had access to even 90% extraction (i.e. 90% of the grain remains in the flour) flour, and genuine wholemeal is 100% extraction.

We believe that the statement ‘…the bread […] is still the mainstay of a nutritious diet’ is in breach of rule 15.2 of the CAP Code. Whilst we believe that genuine wholemeal Real Bread, particularly if made by a longer sourdough method, is indeed a valuable addition to a balanced healthy diet, the reference is made specifically to the Allinson so-called ‘wholemeal’ industrial loaf and is not accompanied by a relevant authorised claim, as required by rule 15.2.

Not what the doctor ordered
The advertisement concludes that Thomas Allinson’s ‘…spirit for healthy eating lives on in everything we make.’

Really?

We believe this statement is far from the truth, highly misleading and so in breach of rule 3.1 of the CAP Code. In his 1915 cookery book, Thomas Allinson wrote:  ‘The next question is, how shall we prepare the grain so as to make the best bread from it? This is done by grinding the grain as finely as possible with stones…’ Now, unless Allied Bakeries’ marketing department is missing a trick by neglecting to mention that the flour it uses for its Allinson loaves is stoneground, then like flour sold under the Allinson brand, it is milled by steel rollers.

A number of studies (see below for an extract from one example) have found that stoneground flour is likely to be more nutritious than flour milled by steel rollers.

There are several advantages to stoneground wheat flour. The endosperm, bran and germ remain in their natural, original proportions. Because the stones grind slowly, the wheat germ is not exposed to excessive temperatures. Heat causes the fat from the germ portion to oxidize and become rancid and much of the vitamins to be destroyed (Aubert, 1989). Since only a small amount of grain is ground at once, the fat from the germ is well distributed which also minimizes spoilage (Mount, 1975). Nutritive losses due to oxygen exposure are also limited by the fact that stone-ground flour is usually coarser (Thomas, 1976). Moritz and Jones (1950) and Schultz et al. (1942) showed that stone-milled flour was relatively high in thiamin, compared to roller-milled flour, especially from hard wheat.

By comparison steel rollers are ruthlessly efficient at stripping down and breaking up grains, making them more prone to a depletion of their nutritional value, and so able to deliver fewer of the nutritional benefits provided by stone milled flour. Roller milling is a process to which Dr. Allinson objected so much that in 1892 he bought a stone mill in Bethnal Green in order to make more stoneground flour available to more people.

How can an advert for loaves manufactured with flour milled by steel rollers state with any validity that the spirit of such a fervent stoneground flour advocate lives on in products made from roller-milled flour?

Further, in his cookery book, Thomas Allinson said that, ‘When ground, nothing must be taken from it, nor must anything be added to the flour, and from this bread should be made.’ 

Would the man who even believed in ‘the harm done by the use of the most commonly introduced chemicals, namely, soda, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, tartaric acid, and citric acid’  be happy with wholemeal wheat flour being cut with soya flour, malted barley flour, oat bran and wheat protein to make so-called ‘wholemeal’ loaves under his name, let along with a dosing of mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids?  We think not.

The advertisement quotes Dr. Allinson as having written ‘Brown bread is not a luxury, but a necessity to every family’, which indeed he did. However, in the same 1893 collection of Medical Essays (extracts of which were published by Allinson Flour in 2008) he says ‘By brown bread I mean wheatmeal or wholemeal bread: that is, the entire wheaten grain finely ground and made into bread by any of the known ways, with nothing left out, nor must it be made with chemicals.’  We would argue, with good grounds, that the way Allied Bakeries now produces Allinson brand loaves not only goes against Dr. Allinson’s ‘spirit for healthy eating’ but also directly contradicts the letter of his essays on healthy eating.

We believe that this subjective statement is not only misleading (and so in breach of rule 3.1 of the CAP Code) but also implies that it is an objective one, and so in breach of rule 3.6.

‘From Thomas Allinson’? We leave the last word to John A S Beard, who in the British Medical Journal wrote: ‘The good Doctor Allinson would probably be turning in his grave if he could see what a pale imitation of proper wholemeal bread now bears his name on the supermarket shelves of the UK. It differs little in consistency and flavour to any other mass-produced, mass-market, sliced and wrapped loaf. More like coffee-coloured Mother's Pride than real wholemeal bread.’

I can confirm that neither the Real Bread Campaign nor Sustain is undertaking any legal action in connection with this complaint, or intends to do so. Additionally, I confirm that the Real Bread Campaign agrees to be named as the complainant.

Addendum

17 May 2012

Apologies for this addendum to my letter of 26 April 2012, but the information upon which it is based has only just been brought to my attention.

The Real Bread Campaign further believes that marketing claims made in a print advertisement and on the website www.allinsonbread.com promoting the industrial loaves marketed under the Allinson brand breach section 15.1 of The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code).

Both the print advertisement and website claim: ‘Allinson wholemeal bread still contains the whole grain, still has no artificial preservatives and is still the mainstay of a nutritious diet.’

Another claim made is: ‘Just two slices of Allinson Wholemeal bread provides you with 100% of your daily whole grain.’

We believe that this is presented as a nutritional claim but that it is not accompanied by reference to any relevant authorised claims.

Annex of EC Regulation 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health Claims Made on Foods in breach of rule 15.1: ‘References to general benefits of a nutrient or food for overall good health or health-related well-being are acceptable only if accompanied by a relevant authorised claim.’

The government's guidance notes state: ‘Highlighting the presence, reduced content or absence of a nutrient or other substance is clearly covered in the definition of nutrition claim.’

ASA initial response

31 May 2012

ABF GRAIN PRODUCTS (ALLINSONS)

Thank you for your patience while we assessed your complaint about Allinsons.

We have now decided that we have grounds to investigate the following points:

  1. that the image of bread being kneaded by hand gives the impression that Allinsons’ bread is hand-made.
  2. that the use of the term “wholemeal” throughout the advertising material is misleading and likely to breach The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998.
  3. that the claim “the bread...still has no artificial preservatives...” is misleading because it falsely implies that Allinsons bread has never contained artificial preservatives.
  4. that the claims “his spirit for healthy eating lives on...” and “the bread...is still the mainstay of a nutritious diet...” is misleading.
  5. that the claim “Thomas succeeded in his crusade to bring wholemeal to the whole nation” could not be substantiated because by his death in 1918, 100%  wholemeal was not available to the whole nation

We have decided that we don’t have grounds to investigate the use of the term “pure” for the reasons you suggest because we note that “pure” is used in the marketing material to refer to the flour that is used to make the bread and not to the bread itself.  I appreciate why you object to the use of “his” in the claim “Thomas succeeded in his crusade to bring wholemeal to the whole nation” on the basis that Allinson was not the only person to campaign for the increased consumption of wholemeal.  However, the ad doesn’t make any claim that Mr Allinson’s campaign was exclusive and so we don’t think this claim is likely to mislead consumers to their detriment.

I will now pass this case onto our Investigations department and an Investigations Executive will be in touch with more information in due course.

Thank you for your continued patience.

ASA second response

5 July 2012

Thank you for confirming that you do not contemplate legal action in this matter and that you are happy to be named in any published report.  We have considered your complaint and we will take it up with the advertisers.

We intend to deal with your complaint under our formal investigations procedure, which means that we will ask ABF Grains Products Ltd to comment on the complaint and send evidence to support the claims.  We will then draft a recommendation and refer your complaint to the ASA Council for adjudication.  You will have an opportunity to comment on the recommendation before it is considered by the Council.  Once the Council has made a decision, the adjudication will be published on our website.

Some of the points that you have raised in your complaint will not be investigated.  

  1. You objected to the claim “the bread ... is still the mainstay of a nutritious diet” on the grounds that it was a general health claim that was not accompanied by a relevant authorised claim, as required by rule 15.2.  However, we have taken advice from the Department of Health and have concluded that the claim was not a health claim for the purposes of the Regulations, or this section of the Code.  Furthermore rule 15.2 was not in force at the time of the complaint because the Register of permitted health claims was not in confirmed.
  2. You also challenged whether the claim “his spirit for health eating lives on in everything we make/bake” was misleading.  We do not consider that this was an objective claim likely to influence the average consumer in a material way.  The claim refers more to the ethos of the company and although you may feel entitled to challenge this in your own right it is not something that would be considered open to challenge under the Code.
  3. You also challenged the accuracy of the claim “Thomas succeeded in his crusade to bring wholemeal to the whole nation”.  Although there is an argument as to whether this claim was accurate, we consider that it is unlikely to materially affect the average consumer’s transactional decision, therefore we will not be pursuing this challenge.

If the advertisers respond to your complaint by offering to change the advertising in a way that resolves your concerns, we may close the case without referring it to Council or publishing an adjudication.  This has the advantage of resolving your complaint more quickly.  However we resolve your complaint, we will let you know the outcome. 

Cover letter to ASA draft recommendation

15 August 2012

Your complaint about ABF Grain Products Ltd

The attached report is now ready to be sent to the ASA Council.  We have based it on the information we have at the moment.  If you want to send us more, please do so now.  As you can see from the attached we are recommending that the complaints are not upheld, the reasons why are outlined in the report.  On point two of the complaint, regarding the use of the term “wholemeal”, we took advice from DEFRA on the Bread and Flour Regulations; they confirmed that the inclusion of ingredients such as soya flour and wheat protein did not invalidate the “wholemeal” claim.  The flours used in the loaf (wheat flour and malted barley flour) were both 100% wholemeal.  The report is a draft recommendation and the decision and wording will rest entirely with the Council, who may see things differently.

Please ensure you have made all the points that you want to make.  We shall consider written comments on the factual accuracy of the draft if we receive them by 22 August.  The advertiser will also receive a copy of the draft recommendation today.  If we change the draft recommendation materially as a result of comments we receive, we shall tell you. If no material changes are needed, the draft recommendation will be forwarded to the Council for consideration. 

We shall write to you again to tell you the Council’s decision and the publication date for the final report.  Please treat the draft recommendation as confidential until the final report is published.

Real Bread Campaign response

22 August 2012

The Real Bread Campaign is mystified by the Advertising Standards Authority’s draft assessment dated 15 August 2012 that the Allinson advertisement in question is in no way misleading.

Having sought further guidance from marketing experts, we ask that you please review the following elements of our complaint, numbered as per your original response letter dated 31 May 2012.

1) The use of the photograph of hands kneading dough alone would be enough to help form a link in the minds of consumers between that activity and the product being advertised. As Chris Hackley, Professor of Marketing at Royal Holloway University of London advised us: ‘the entire ad is set up to support the implied association of the hands kneading dough. Consumers would register the implied connection between the image of hands kneading dough and the production of 'ALLINSON TODAY.'’

The fact that this image is placed directly under the bold, green headline ‘ALLINSON TODAY’ is a clear visual statement. How can there be any room for doubt whatsoever that this was the intention of the advertiser? Any claim to the contrary, we believe, is spurious.

We note the phrase ‘much has changed since those days’ - not least ABF Grain Products using mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471), mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E472e aka DATEM) and ascorbic acid (E300) in its Allinson brand factory loaves. But this note is in black body text less than half the height (3mm as opposed to 7mm) of the bold green 'ALLINSON TODAY' headline.

As outlined in our original complaint and even made clear on the Allinson website, the dough for the company’s loaves is untouched by human hand. The use of the image, particularly given its deliberate placement under that heading, is therefore misleading.

It has also been brought to our attention that the baked loaf pictured in box headlined ‘ALLINSON TODAY’ is no such thing. Rather than showing a wrapped-sliced factory loaf, the advertiser has chosen to substitute a photograph of a hand-sliced loaf. As this is not the product being advertised, we believe presenting its image to be misleading, particularly given its position under this headline.

2) We believe that the average consumer assumes a loaf marketed as wholemeal to contain no flour other than wholemeal wheat flour and, as outlined in our original complaint, British law enshrines this.

To be clear: to produce Allinson ‘wholemeal’ loaves, ABF Grain Products mixes wholemeal wheat flour with soya, barley, and incomplete fractions of wheat and oats. How then could marketing such loaves as ‘wholemeal’ be anything other than misleading? Does the ASA really want to make a ruling that appears to contradict not only common sense but also the law?

3) We are interested to note that the advertiser was unable, or did not take this opportunity, to say that it had never used artificial preservatives in Allinson brand loaves. 

If the advertiser had chosen to say its loaves ‘now’, ‘currently’ or ‘again’ have no artificial preservatives, then we agree that this would not have been misleading. Arguably it could be seen as a diversion from all of the other artificial additives used, but not in itself misleading. But the advertiser did not make any of those legitimate claims; the advertiser chose to use the word ‘still’.

Advertisements are designed to be read as a whole. We believe the choice of the word ‘still’ to be yet another part of the advertiser’s deliberate attempt at creating in consumers’ minds the illusion of an unbroken continuity between the values, beliefs and – in particular – practices of Thomas Allinson, and those of ABF Grain Products. As such, we believe the use of ‘still’ is misleading both on its own and taken in the context of the advertisement as a whole.

4) We cannot find in the draft any mention of the complaints we made in our original letter under the heading ‘Not what the doctor ordered.’ Please forward ABF Grain Products’ responses and your draft recommendations for us to review before you pass them to the ASA Council.

5) The advertisement claims, incorrectly, that Dr. Allinson ‘succeeded in his crusade to bring wholemeal to the whole nation.’ We note that the ASA decided not to investigate this element of our complaint on the grounds that ‘the ad doesn’t make any claim that Mr Allinson’s campaign was exclusive.’  This misses the point that there was no such success. Wholemeal loaves, or even flour, were not available nationwide during his lifetime, nor for many years afterwards. To claim such a success in the name of a man with whom the advertised product shares a name is misleading.

The importance of this point is that we believe the advertiser is attempting to build the concept of ‘success’ into the ‘Thomas Allinson’ brand (as in a cluster of associations and connotations around the product) they admit the advertisement was designed to create.

We further believe that this inaccurate claim is intended, and likely, to be taken by consumers in the context of the advertisement as a whole. As such it is intended, and likely, to lead consumers to include by association the concept of ‘success’ into their perception of the brand of the factory loaves that now bear Thomas Allinson’s name.

6) We note that you did not investigate this point and now ask you to do so, please.

Consumers will read the word ‘pure’ in context of the advertisement as a whole and so to apply to the product being advertised and to its brand, not merely one of the ingredients.  In the context of an advertisement for a loaf in which wholemeal wheat flour, water, yeast and salt have been mixed with ‘Wheat Protein, Vegetable Oil, Malted Barley Flour, Vinegar, Oat Bran, Fermented Wheat Flour, Molasses Sugar, Soya flour, Emulsifiers: E471, E472e; Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)’ how can the use of the word ‘pure’ be anything other than misleading?

Summary

Professor Gerard Hastings, Director of Institute for Social Marketing Stirling University, and the Open University advised us:

'The intention of advertisements like this is not just to communicate factual messages and make rational claims, they are also designed to exploit emotions.  In this case it is being done by juxtaposing attractive historic images and invoking the supposed blessing of a long-dead Victorian hero.  The aim is to build into the brand of ‘Allinson today’ the image of a traditional bakery using couthy, old fashioned methods, which in fact bears no resemblance to the reality of the industrial production methods actually used.'

We look forward to hearing from once you have reviewed the case in light of all of the above.

ASA reply to the Campaign's response

23 August 2012

I had reviewed your comments and will refer to the same numbering in response:

  1. I note your comments on this point but I am not minded to change my recommendation that the ASA Council does not uphold the complaint.  My reasons for recommending this are outlined in the draft report and I feel that there is little I can add to them here.  The matter is one of interpretation and the final decision, as always, will be for the ASA Council.  Regarding the picture of the loaf in ad (a) not being a factory produced loaf; this was not raised in your original complaint and unfortunately it is too late in the process to add it as a new challenge now.  You may submit it as a new complaint if you wish.
  2. My letter to you dated 15 August stated that we had sought advice from DEFRA concerning the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998. Based on this guidance we believe that our recommendation is in line with the regulations.
  3. I note your comments on this point, which are reflected in the draft recommendation, as are my reasons for recommending that this complaint is not upheld.  The Council will make the final decision.
  4. My letter to you dated 15 July outlines why we have not taken up these points.  That decision is at the discretion of the ASA and we will not be delaying the investigation to discuss those points at this stage.  I have attached the letter for your reference.  We do not pass on advertiser’s responses to complainants.
  5. My letter to you dated 5 July explained that we were not investigating this point because we did not consider that the claim would have an effect on the transactional decision of the average consumer
  6. My colleague’s letter to you dated 31 May explains why we have not investigated this point.  As above, that decision is at the discretion of the ASA .

 If you would like to contest the decision not to investigate certain points of your complaint, such as those referred to above at 4, 5 and 6, you can write to the ASA with your objections and we will get back to you.  However, those decisions have already been taken for this investigation and we will not be delaying progressing this case through our formal procedures.  The case will now be presented to the ASA Council.  I will write to you again to inform you of their decision.

ASA final adjudication

19 September 2012

ABF Grain Products Ltd t/a Allied Bakeries
Weston Centre
10 Grosvenor Street
London
W1K 4QY

Case number:    A12-195239
Media:    National press, Internet (on own site)
Sector:    Food and drink
Agency:    M&C Saatchi (UK) Ltd

Number of complaints : 1

Background
Summary of Council decision:

Three issues were investigated: the complaints were not upheld.

Ad
Ad (a), a poster for Allinson's wholemeal batch loaf, was headed "Thomas Allinson, Rebel, Maverick, Baker".  Further text stated, "The Wholemeal Pioneer - Thomas Allinson as a true visionary.  A man who fervently believed that 'Brown bread is not a luxury, but a necessity to every family'.  So, with typical Victorian zeal, he bought his own flour mill to create the pure whole grain flour at the heart of an Allinson loaf".  Under the heading "Allinson Today" text stated, "Happily, Thomas succeeded in his crusade to bring wholemeal to the whole nation and, while much has changed since those days, the bread still contains whole grain, still has no artificial preservatives and is still the mainstay of a nutritious diet.  But, just as importantly, his spirit for healthy eating lives on in everything we make."  The poster featured a picture of some bread dough being kneaded by hand and a sack of flour.  

Ad (b), the Allinson's website, featured a "Range" page headed "A taste of tradition today".  It showed four Allison products: Wholemeal Batch Loaf, Sunflower & Pumpkin Batch loaf, Brown Batch with the taste of sourdough and 6 brown snack rolls.  Clicking on each product accessed that product's information page.  A webpage headed "How it all began" stated, "today we take the benefits of wholemeal pretty much for granted.  But back in the Victorian era it was a different story.  One man who bucked the trend and energetically championed the healthy eating cause was Thomas Allinson.  So much so, in fact, that in 1892 he bought his first mill to create the pure whole grain flour at the heart of the Allinson loaf."  A further webpage on the site was headed "Mr Thomas Allinson - The Wholemeal Revolutionary".

Issue
The Real Bread Campaign challenged whether:

  1. the image of bread being kneaded by hand in ad (a) misleadingly implied that Allinson's bread was made by hand;
  2. the use of "wholemeal" throughout the advertising was misleading, because they believed that not all the flour used to make Allinson's "wholemeal" bread was wholemeal, and
  3. the claim "the bread ... still has no artificial preservatives" in ad (a) was misleading.

Response

  1. ABF Grain Products Ltd (ABF) said ad (a) was part of a relaunch of the Allison bread brand, where the intention was to make consumers aware of the forgotten story of Thomas Allison.  Ad (a) told the story of Thomas Allison and how he purchased his own flour mill; it also referred to his revolutionary zeal to bring wholemeal to the whole nation.  To illustrate the story, all of the images used were selected to evoke the Victorian period.  The images of a sack of flour, a Victorian gentleman, dough being hand kneaded and a tinned loaf on a bread board; as well as the layout and font were all intended to be evocative of this period.  None of the images were intended to be representative of how ABF made their breads today.  In order to ensure that consumers were not misled the image of dough being kneaded by hand was carefully positioned next to text which stated, "while much has changed from those days..."  At no point did ad (a) state that Allison bread was still kneaded by hand today.
  2. ABF said that their use of the term "wholemeal" was not misleading and was in line with the requirements of the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 (the Regulations).  Under the Regulations, all the flour used in the making of "wholemeal" bread must be 100% wholemeal flour.  In accordance with the Regulations, the only flours used to make Allison wholemeal bread (wholemeal wheat flour and malted barley flour) were 100% wholemeal.
  3. ABF confirmed that there were no artificial preservatives present in the bread.  In foods where these were present there was a legal requirement to declare them in the ingredient list as "Preservative" followed by the name or 'E number'.  

The Real Bread Campaign objected to the word "still" in this claim because they believed it implied that Allinson's bread has never contained preservatives, which they understood was not the case.  We put this objection to ABF, who said the claim made a comparison between the bread made in Victorian times with the bread made today - it did not refer to all of the recipes changes that may have occurred in the interim.  Because the bread made today did not contain preservatives, they believed the claim was accurate and not misleading.

Assessment
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted the image of dough being kneaded by hand in ad (a).  However, in light of the Victorian style of the ad and the other images used, including the Victorian gentleman and the sack of flour, we considered that consumers would understand the ad was making references to the history of the company.  An image of the contemporary Allinson wholemeal loaf was displayed at the foot of the ad.  We considered that this was a recognisable brand that consumers would be familiar with and understand was a mass produced loaf.  We did not consider that the average consumer would infer from the ad that Allinson loaves were made by hand today.  We therefore concluded that ad (a) was not misleading on this point.

On this point we investigated ad (a) under CAP Code (Edition12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.

2. Not Upheld
The bread contained wheat flour and malted barley flour, which were 100% wholemeal.  We therefore considered that the references to "wholemeal" were not misleading.  We noted that the product also contained oat bran, wheat protein and soya flour, but because we understood that these were not flours for the purposes of the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998, we considered that their inclusion did not invalidate the wholemeal claim.

On this point we investigated the complaint under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.

3. Not upheld
The ad stated "... while much has changed since those days, the bread still contains the whole grain, still has no artificial preservatives..."  We noted the complainant's objection to this claim on the grounds that they understood the loaf contained additives.  However, we considered that consumers would differentiate claims that a product was free from artificial additives and claims that it was free from artificial preservatives.  Because the claim referred specifically to preservatives, and we understood that the product contained no artificial preservatives, we considered the claim was not misleading on this point.

We noted that the complainant believed the word "still" implied that Allinson's loaves had never contained preservatives and because they understood that this was not the case, the ad was misleading.  However we considered that the average consumer would understand the claim was a comparison between the original Allinson's loaf and the current one.  Because we understood that the current loaf contained no artificial preservatives, we concluded that the claim was not misleading.

Investigated under CAP Code (Edition12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (substantiation) and 15.1 (Food, food supplements and associated health and nutritional claims).

Action
No further action necessary.

What you can do

  • Buy Real Bread from a small, local independent bakery (if you're lucky enough to have one), where another person from your local community should be happy to tell you everything about their loaves.
  • Bake your own Real Bread.
  • Always read the label for a better idea of what you're buying.*

*Though click here to learn more about hidden processing aids.

If you believe that any advertisement is misleading, you can:

  • Write to the ASA to outline the ways in which you believe it/they breach(es) the relevant CAP Advertising Standards Code.  You can find full details of the codes at: www.asa.org.uk/asa/codes/  and the and complaints procedure at: www.asa.org.uk/asa/how_to_complain/
  • Write to the manufacturer demanding that it withdraws the slogan and any elements you believe that are misleading from its advertisements.

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