Real Bread Campaign


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Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some of the questions we've been asked over the past few years.

See also


How can I get involved?

The main way to join in is to join us!

Becoming a Real Bread Campaign member not only helps to ensure our charity can keep running the Campaign, but also strengthens our voice. 

Annual membership:

  • is open to EVERYONE - you don't have to be a baker to join!
  • starts from LESS THAN £2 a month for individuals and microbakeries.

Campaign members can download our proud to support badge for use on websites and blogs here.

Everyone

  • Buying loaves from a local, independent Real Bread bakery is one of the best ways to help the rise of Real Bread. The more people who do, the better the chance of that bakery continuing to be a cornerstone of your local community and player in keeping money in the local economy.
  • If the baker/retailer isn’t giving you the full facts about the loaves you buy – ask questions.
  • If you are not baking Real Bread already, start now. If you have children, get them involved as well.
  • Bake matters into your own hands! Become your local Real Bread baker by starting a microbakery in your own kitchen or joining with other people to set up a  Community Supported Bakery. Our book Knead to Know will get you started.
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, then repost our messages for your own followers to see.

And we'd love you to make a donation to support the charitable work of the Real Bread Campaign.

Bakers

  • If you use processing aids or artificial additives of any kind, NOW is the time to kick the habit! To date we have found more than 600 successful businesses around the UK, from one person operations to factory loaf makers with national distribution, that don't use 'em.
  • Sign up for The Real Bread Loaf Mark scheme to let your customers know at a glance which ones are.
  • Make a noise about your Real Bread, giving a full ingredients list and highlighting why people should buy from you - e.g. locally grown wheat, stone ground flour, locally milled flour, genuine sourdough with longer fermentation, organic ingredients, higher extraction white flour etc.
  • If you are a member of the Campaign, please help us to recruit more members by telling your customers about us and displaying our promotional leaflets on your counter. Order here.
  • Campaign members can also download our fab full colour poster designs to print and display.

Others

  • If you run baking classes, would you be willing to offer our members a discount? Could you build Campaign membership fee into your pricing? Click here for more info.
  • We would be happy to hear from anyone who can give us support in kind in the form of photography, animation, video clips, printing leaflets, t-shirts, cards etc. to promote the campaign.
  • We need journalists/writers to volunteer to write articles for our quarterly magazine True Loaf.
  • We usually have long-term (i.e. three months and more) office intern opportunities at our HQ in London supporting the Campaign coordinator.

Why no additives?

Simply put, because Real Bread doesn’t need them. However manufacturers may present their reasons in terms of consumer demand, their motivation for adulterating their products is basically generating greater profit.

Examples of the purposes of additives include:

  • Prolonging the time a loaf stays soft by artificial means and advertising this as ‘freshness’
  • A spraying of chemical fungicide to prevent mould
  • Adapting natural ingredients to comply to the technical demands of modern processing
  • Modifying and supplementing natural ingredients to produce a certain type of product, rather than allowing the flour determine the type of bread that can be produced.
  • Shortening natural rising times

Click here for more on additives, including a category known as processing aids that don't even have to be declared on the label.

Why local loaves?

A report by the New Economics Foundation shows the value of supporting local businesses: in one study, Northumberland County Council found that their local suppliers of items such as bread re-spent on average 76% of their income locally, while suppliers based outside the county re-spent on average only 36%.   In this example, £1 spent with a local business yields £1.76 for the local economy, while £1 spent with a business outside the area would contribute just 36p.  Because of the multiplier effect, it has been calculated that, as a result, local spending contributes around four times as much to the local economy as spending with non-local businesses.  The importance of such re-localisation of business, particularly in areas of disadvantage, is summarised in the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal (2000):

‘The problem is not necessarily that too little money flows into a neighbourhood. Rather it is what consumers, public services and businesses do with that money. Too often it is spent on services with no local presence, and so immediately leaves the area.’

Local bakers also provide a way of preserving traditional baking skills that are otherwise at risk of being lost, and can provide a focal point in local communities where other services have been lost.  Environmentally, local bakers can dramatically reduce food miles compared to plant bakers, by producing a fundamental part of people’s diet locally or even at the point of sale.

More jobs per loaf

Centrally-supplied baked goods chain outlets, the loaf tanning salons in many supermarkets, and particularly, industrial loaf factories (generally known as plant bakeries), are designed to be ‘cost-efficient’. In part, this means an ongoing drive to keep staffing levels to an absolute minimum.

In fact, 80% of the UK’s 12 million loaf a day market is sliced up between a mere nine companies, operating just 47 factories between them. 

Taken to a national level, the demand of approximately 12 million loaves a day would support 25,000 small bakeries each employing three people – offering a total of 75,000 skilled jobs for local people.

This is nearly three times as many Real Bread jobs as all of the 26,000 ‘bakers and flour confectioners’ currently employed , and over 13 times as many Real Bread businesses than the 1,892  engaged in the ‘manufacture of bread; manufacture of fresh pastry goods and cakes.’  

Don’t factory loaves stay fresh longer?

In terms of bread, surely ‘fresh’ means just made, doesn't it? Treating a product to prolong artificially the characteristics of freshness is effectively loaf botox. 

Just as a chemical facelift does not change a person's age, a ten day old loaf that is made using processing aids to prolong softness, pumped full of salt and sprayed with a fungicide to inhibit the growth of mould, is still a ten day old loaf.

It should be noted that certain sourdough Real Breads will keep for a week or more, the products of the fermentation process acting as natural preservatives.

What's the best way to store bread?

For notes on storing bread and slowing staling click here.

Why does Real Bread cost what it does?

We believe in an honest price for an honest loaf. There are many reasons why a loaf of Real Bread baked by a local, independent bakery might differ in price from an industrial loaf or supermarket in-store 'bakery' baguette. For a particular bakery these might include:

  • A Real Bread bakery does not cut corners by using artificial additives
  • Economy of scale - larger enterprises buying in greater bulk have more power to force down the price of ingredients from suppliers.
  • Labour costs - an industrial loaf factory or supermarket bake-off operation provides fewer jobs per loaf for people from your community than a small local independent bakery.
  • Ingredients - an independent baker might go out of his/her way to support local independent famers and millers or other small-scale producers by buying their top-quality ingredients from, rather than cheaper, generic flours etc.
  • A Real Bread bakery has far less opportunity to supplement income from loaf sales using the mark-up on other products, and certainly no choice of selling loaves below the cost of production as a 'loss leader'.

For more thought on the real value of Real Bread and true costs of other alternatives, click here.

But if price at the till is your main consideration, baking your own Real Bread at home (either by hand or in a machine) could well be cheaper than even the cheapest supermarket loaf.

* Loss leader is the term for an item a retailer sells below what it cost them to put it on the shelf (and in extreme cases at below the cost of production) at a loss in an attempt to entice customers into the shop in the hope that they will also purchase other items at the same time or even become a regular customer. It is commonly used on what are termed 'known value items' - products of which shoppers tend to know the price. Some shoppers will base their opinions of retailers overall pricing on just a few KVIs - 'milk, loaves and bananas are cheaper here at Safeburys than Tescisons up the road...'

What's the best flour to use?

Most modern British recipes call for strong or bread making flour.  This is what flour that has high levels of gluten, the stretchy protein that traps bubbles of carbon dioxide and allows them to expand, causing bread to rise.  Look for a protein content of 12-15%

You can make bread with lower protein flours and indeed some styles of bread (e.g. traditional baguettes, focaccia, ciabatta and other breads with a more open crumb structure with large, irregular holes) rely on this.

Beyond these technical considerations, we would suggest using flour that is:

  • Stoneground
  • Milled using renewable and pollution-free wind or water power
  • Produced as locally as possible
  • Milled by an independent company that gives more meaningful, skilled employment

And if you purchase either direct or from a locally owned retailer, more of your cash is likely to be re-invested in that local community.

Click here for notes on finding independent mills.

What’s wrong with refined white flour?

Modern roller milling is ruthlessly efficient at stripping away the nutrient rich outer layers of wheat grains, leaving behind not much more than starch and gluten. Additionally, the heat generated by the process actually destroys some of the compounds. Compared to whole wheat, refined white flour is highly depleted. Example losses are:

Vitamin E 93% lost
Vitamin B6 87%
Vitamin B2 81%
Vitamin B3  80%
Iron   70%
Calcium  56%

Source: USDA Nutrient Database, SR 17, 2004

In recognition of the fact that roller-milled white flour is so nutritionally depleted, since the 1950's UK law has demanded that calcium, iron and vitamins B1 and B3 be added to all British milled breadmaking flour (except wholemeal) in an attempt to compensate for some of the shortfall. There is still, however, a whole range of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients that are not replaced at all during this 'fortification'.

White flour is much lower in fibre than wholemeal. A 2011 study by Imperial College found that a daily increase in fibre of 10g can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 10%. See Is sourdough better than ‘normal’ yeast? below for how to get more out of wholemeal.

White flour has a higher glyceamic index than wholemeal, with implications for diabetes

Is stoneground flour better?

The simple grinding of the whole grain in a single pass through and between two horizontal, round millstones is at the heart of traditional milling. It is designed to produce wholemeal flours with excellent flavour and nutritional value. Unlike roller milling, which removes the outer layers of the grain, stone milling crushes the grain and all parts are mixed in together.  Even when finely sifted to produce lighter coloured flours, they will still contain fine particles of the fibrous and most nutritious parts - the germ and bran. There has also been research to suggest that the heat generated by roller milling destroys greater percentages of nutrients in comparison to stone ground flours of equivalent extraction rates.

Why longer fermentation?

The Real Bread Campaign calls for more research to be done on the beneficial effects of longer fermentation, especially in the presence of sourdough bacteria.

Real Bread is a natural product and just as with fruit or cheese it takes time for it to ripen. Although research so far has been limited, there is growing evidence that leaving dough to rise for longer periods can have a range of benefits to the consumer.  Examples include:

  1. Increase in thiamine, riboflavin and pyridoxine (B vitamins) 
  2. Increase in antioxidant pronyl-L-lysine 
  3. Reduction of acrylamide

See also the section on ‘Is sourdough better than ‘normal’ yeast?’ below

Sources:

1. Batifoulier, F., Verny, M-A., Chanliaud, E., Rémésy, C. and Demigné, C. (2005). Effect of different breadmaking methods on thiamine, riboflavin and pyridoxine contents of wheat bread. Journal of Cereal Science 42 (2005) 101-108.

2. Lindenmeier, M. and T. Hoffmann (2004). Influence of baking conditions and precursor supplementation on the amounts of the antioxidant pronyl-L-lysine in bakery products. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2004, 52(2): 350-4.

3. Fredriksson, H. et al (2004). Fermentation Reduces Free Asparagine in Dough and Acrylamide Content in Bread. Cereal Chem. 81(5):650-653.

Why a continuous process?

‘Baking off’ part-baked loaves or baking frozen doughs is another way that manufacturers try to deceive us into thinking that we are eating fresh bread.  Examples are the often doughy ‘French’ bread you find in some mini-markets, slightly anaemic baguette sandwiches in railway stations and even certain supposed ‘artisan’ breads coming from some supermarket in-store bakeries.

One of the problems with these are that they may well have been produced using the same processing aids and additives as the dreaded white sliced loaf.

Another is that for every bakery operative who has been taught to hit an oven’s on switch, that person plus several others could be trained up to be skilled bakers instead. Surely such artisan craft skills have greater value to the individual and his or her community than the ability to push the red button that says ‘bake’.

A further reason is that the weight and size of chilled dough or a part-baked loaf are greater than those of the flour used to make them. It therefore takes more energy to transport dough or bread than flour or grain.

For more on this issue, please see our report Are Supermarket Bloomers Pants?

Is salt necessary?

Salt serves three main functions in bread:

  • Strengthening gluten, the elastic protein in flour that holds the bubbles of carbon dioxide in leavened bread. 
  • Acting as a natural preservative
  • Enhancing flavour

Bread can be made without salt, the traditional breads of Tuscany are an example, but many people in the UK would find bread made without any salt at all to be bland.

That said, to boost the three effects above, industrial bread often has very high levels of salt, as can be seen in these articles from the BBC and The Daily Telegraph.

For this reason, the Real Bread Campaign encourages all bakers to ensure their loaves contain no more than 1% salt in the finished loaf.  In 2011, many Real Bread bakers told us that they do so already.  Click here to read more.

For much more on salt in bread, click here.

Is sourdough better than ‘normal’ yeast?

The Real Bread Campaign calls for more research to be done on the beneficial effects of sourdough.

There is nothing wrong with fresh or dried yeast (though please check dried yeast labels for artificial additives) but research has shown that sourdough has the following advantages:

  • Naturally-occurring (sometimes called wild) yeasts are less concentrated than commercial yeasts, thus good for people who may react badly to excessive yeast in bread. 
  • These yeasts ferment more slowly, allowing time for beneficial bacteria (lactobacilli, AKA lactic acid bacteria or LAB) to develop. They are also more tolerant to the more acid conditions that the LAB create in longer-fermented breads.

Over many hours of slow fermentation, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) produce lactic and acetic acids (and other compounds) which research suggests perform a remarkable number of useful tasks, such as:

The other thing to say is that sourdough enormously improves the flavour of bread, especially rye.  Rye flour is naturally alkaline and has a pretty bland/pasty taste unless fermented with an acid dough.   

The effects of sourdough fermentation on Glycaemic Index (GI)

According to Diabetes UK:

The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a ranking of foods based on their overall effect on blood glucose levels. Slowly absorbed foods have a low GI rating, whilst foods that are more quickly absorbed will have a higher rating. Slow acting carbohydrates will also reduce the peaks in blood glucose that often follow a meal, and this may have a role in helping to prevent or reduce the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes in those at risk. There are also benefits for weight loss. Low GI foods can help you to control your appetite by making you feel fuller for longer, with the result that you eat less. Research has shown that people who have an overall low GI diet have a lower incidence of heart disease.

Lower GI diets have also been associated with improved levels of 'good' cholesterol. One or two small changes can make all the difference.

With thanks to Diabetes UK for pointing us towards the following, here are some studies that show the positive effects of sourdough fermentation on the Glycaemic Index (GI) of bread.

Sourdough - leavened bread improves postprandial glucose and insulin plasma levels in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance Acta Diabetologica,Volume 45, Number 2, 91-96

The acute impact of ingestion of breads of varying composition on blood glucose, insulin and incretins following first and second meals British Journal of Nutrition (2009), 101, 391–398

Use of sourdough lactobacilli and oat fibre to decrease the glycaemic index of white wheat bread British Journal of Nutrition (2007), 98, 1196–1205

Glycemic index and phenolics of partially-baked frozen bread with sourdough Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2011 Feb;62(1):26-33. Epub 2010 Aug 17.

A dietary exchange of common bread for tailored bread of low glycaemic index and rich in dietary fibre improved insulin economy in young women with impaired glucose tolerance European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2006) 60, 334–341

Sourdough bread: Starch digestibility and postprandial glycemic response Journal of Cereal Science, Volume 49, Issue 3, May 2009, Pages 419-421

Sourdough fermentation as a tool for the manufacture of low-glycemic index white wheat bread enriched in dietary fibre European Food Research and Technology, Volume 209 / 1999 - Volume 233 / 2011

Coeliac disease, food allergy and food intolerance

Some people have medical conditions that cause them to have adverse reactions to certain foods.  Individual response varies, and so whilst one person might not be able to eat any cereal containing gliadin (a type of protein that combines with glutenins to form gluten in wheat but is also found in other cereals, such as barley and rye), another might have problems with modern wheat (Triticum aestivum) but not with spelt (Triticum aestivum var. spelta), which is a relative of modern wheat. Individuals' responses to the avenin in oats (a protein similar to gluten) also varies.

Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or intolerance: it is an auto-immune disease that is triggered by the omega 5 gliadin proteins found in cereals including wheat (spelt is a type of wheat), barley and rye. Some coeliac sufferers also cannot eat oats. In common with other auto-immune diseases (including rheumatoid arthritis) this causes the body to attack itself. In the case of coeliac disease, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the lining of the digestive system, sometimes resulting in perforation of the stomach or intestines. The Coeliac Society estimates that the disease affects around 1 in 100 people in Britain.

An allergy is a condition that causes the body mistakenly to recognise a substance –such as gluten - as toxic and produce histamine in defence. The body then reacts to the histamine in any number of ways, including rashes and breathing difficulty.  At an extreme level, a person’s histamine response is so great it causes the body to go into anaphylactic shock, which in a minority of cases may even result in death.

A food intolerance is a sensitivity that can't be diagnosed by a standard allergy test. The causes are various, including the body not producing an enzyme that is necessary for breaking down a certain foodstuff or part of one; a toxic compound in the food; a pharmacologically active compound (e.g. caffeine) to which some people are sensitive; or interaction with compounds in the food and drugs that a person is on. Symptoms of an intolerance could include uncomfortable indigestion and/or excessive gas production, leading to a bloated feeling.

Some symptoms are common to all three types of condition, and also to other totally different conditions and illnesses.

In order that you are not putting yourself at risk (or unnecessarily depriving yourself of Real Bread!) we urge you to obtain a professional diagnosis of your condition and narrow down exactly to what it is that you have an adverse reaction. Perhaps the diagnosis might show that your condition is in fact associated to one or more of the artificial additives found in factory loaves, or that you could eat Real Bread made by the sourdough or other longer fermentation method. But do get yourself diagnosed before you start experimenting!

Your GP will be able to advise you on how to get expert diagnosis of any of the above.  For advice on how to get a diagnosis as to whether or not you have coeliac disease, visit www.coeliac.org.uk

As noted above, at least one study has found that sourdough bread made from wheat and non-toxic flours and started with selected lactobacilli was tolerated in coeliac sprue patients. A number of other studies have also shown the use of longer fermentation in the presence of lactic acid bacterial (sourdough) cultures have reduced the levels of gluten or gluten proteins in dough.

By contrast, we have concern that the addition of transglutaminase, one of the processing aids on the market for use by industrial bakers, could exacerbate the problem. Gerrard, J. & Sutton, K. (2005). Addition of transglutaminase to cereal products may generate
the epitope responsible for coeliac disease
. Trends in Food Science & Technology 16 (2005) 510-512.

Where can I find a gluten-free Real Bread recipe?

We prefer to ask - are there changes that could be made in the way that wheat is bred, grown, milled and turned into loaves that could allow more people to eat Real Bread made with wheat?

Britain is a predominantly wheat-eating nation, so why does it seem that more and more people are reporting that they have difficulty eating certain types of loaf? See below for more on these and related issues.

But back to the original question: as yet, nothing in nature (or of human invention) has been found to replicate what wheat gluten (the stretchy complex of glutenin and gliadin proteins that allows us to make fluffy, well-risen loaves) does. This seems to leave people who have been professionally diagnosed as needing (as well as those who, bizarrely, choose) to avoid gluten with two options:

  • Choose Real Breads made with gluten-free grains grains, pulses, pseudo cereals, tubers or other starchy plants. These might well be low-risen or even be flatbreads.
  • Put up with products that contain a variety of starches, gums, alternative proteins (e.g. egg white) and possible a cocktail of artificial additives (surely the last thing someone with a compromised digestive system needs) that try to mimic white sliced loaves.  As for their nutritional value...

There are some Real Bread recipes out there that come close to wheat loaves but we don't know many. Campaign co-founder Andrew Whitley dedicates a whole chapter of his book Bread Matters to gluten-free baking without artificial additives.

Other places to find recipes for gluten-free Real Bread:

  • How to Make Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou
  • erm...

Send us your gluten free Real Bread recipes

As we've been saying since 2009, we'd love to find more!

If you have a gluten-free recipe for Real Bread (i.e. no artificial addtives) you'd be happy for us to publish please email it to realbread [at] sustainweb.org.

The recipe doesn't have to try to imitate a wheat flour white sandwich loaf, but it does have to be made without without any type of wheat (including spelt), barley or rye. To be Real Bread it can't use xanthan gum or any other artificial additives, and preferably should be vegan, rather than using egg white.

Where to buy gluten free Real Bread

One g-free brand of Real Bread that is available widely is Artisan Bread Organic.

Beyond that we're not really sure. Sorry.

As we've never been funded to do any work on g-free, we've not been able to commit any time to researching this.

You could have a look at our Real Bread Finder to see who has listed gluten free loaves. Sorry that there's no search facility that would allow you to search by loaf type so you could see them all in one place - again, we'd need the dough to be able to get that done.

What Coeliac UK said

On 12 April 2018, the Coeliac UK’s Director of Policy, Research and Campaigns told us: “Gluten free bread production involves use of many ingredients to replace the functionality of wheat and fresh gluten free bread is almost like a cake mix with more fat than gluten containing fresh bread to produce the desired end product. So, the campaign for us is to achieve a product that resembles fresh bread with comparable nutritional composition.”

When we prompted for a response to the other suggestions for working together, she replied: “I can’t see any real synergy between our organisations on this issue. We are aware of long fermentation production of bread and that the process is not effective in reducing gluten content - the end product is still toxic for people with coeliac disease. We are also aware of microbial transglutaminase and have consulted with international researchers on this topic who do not see it as a particular issue either for the coeliac community in terms of GF food or the non coeliac community.”

In May 2012, we invited Coeliac UK to work with us on producing a short guide/recipe booklet, to which they replied:

'As much as this idea sounds very nice I am afraid that it is not something that we would be able to commit to.  We do obviously have a lot of people looking for gluten-free recipes, especially bread, but we tend to invest our resource into buying published books for our online shop.'

Where to learn to bake gluten free Real Bread

June 2013

If you run regular/frequent classes on how to bake gluten free Real Bread (i.e. no xanthan gum or any other artificial additives, or chemical raising agents) and would like us to publish details on our website, you can find details of how to do so here.

Does bread cause bloating?

Some people do report bloating (in extreme cases the abdominal swelling becomes visible externally) after consuming wheat and other cereals. 

In 2012, the National Association of British and Irish Millers (which represents the big industrial, and other, millers) and the Federation of Bakers (which represents the industrial loaf manufacturers, major customers of NABIM's members) funded a British Nutrition Foundation review paper called 'Does bread cause bloating?'

This document resulting from this attempt to find existing research on the issue makes several references to what we at the Real Bread Campaign hear time and again from Real Bread bakers and members of the public: there are many people who report difficulties after eating a factory loaf that they simply don't experience when eating genuine sourdough, or other Real Bread.

The paper's findings also support the Campaign's assertion that not enough research has been done to establish the cause of the issues that so many people report.  Sadly, rather than 'more research needed', its conclusion frames this as 'no evidence'.

We ask: don't the people who report suffering after ingesting factory loaves and other wheat-based products have the right to know the cause? Wouldn't everybody (the industrial bakers and the people who sell them the flour included) benefit from establishing whether there are ways to reduce the number of people reporting such problems? Could a change in one or more of the following have a beneficial effect: cereal breeders considering digestibility and nutritional values, not just yield and the levels/strength of protein; the farming methods (fertilisers have an effect on the nutritional profile of wheat - including the proteins that trigger allergies and the coeliac response), a change (or elimination) of certain artificial additives and added enzymes; or a change in loaf production methods - for example longer fermentation involving sourdough culture.

Why local ingredients?

Sourcing ingredients for bread locally has three major advantages:

  • Reduction of energy consumption
  • Benefit to the local economy
  • Sustainability of supply

The shorter the distance that grain has to travel to be milled, flour travels to be baked and loaves travel to the consumer, the less the energy consumed in transport.  As much of the transportation at each of these stages is currently done using fossil fuels, any reduction will bring down carbon emissions.

Local supply chains help to generate local employment. As outlined under ‘Why Real Bread’ on our About Real Bread section, money that is spent with local suppliers is more likely to be re-invested locally, which is of benefit to the economy of the local community.

Local supplies and stores of grain are much more resilient to interruption by factors such as adverse weather conditions, industrial action and fuel shortages, which have more opportunities to have impact on transport systems in extended chains.

How do I know if my local bakery makes Real Bread?

Otherwise, why not ask them what they use to make their bread and how they make it?  If they do bake Real Bread, please suggest they add it to our finder to let everyone else know, too.

Which supermarket in-store bakeries make Real Bread?

With current legislation not requiring ingredients to be listed on food that is prepared at the point of sale (eg in-store bakeries), it’s hard to say.

Between June 2009 and February 2010, the Real Bread Campaign made numerous attempts to contact the major chains to find out how many stores bake from scratch (the use of frozen dough and part-baked loaves is not out of the question) and what goes into the manufacture of their loaves.

You can read a report of our findings here.
See also our supermarkets page

What about the high street chain bakeries, sandwich shops etc?

That's what we'd like to know!  You can help us by asking them (a query from a customer might be more effective than one from the Campaign) and emailing any responses you receive to us, so that we can share with others.

Lidl

28 October 2011

Re: Bread

Thank you for your recent correspondence with our Customer Service Department regarding the above-mentioned product. We are sorry for the delay with your response.

We have contacted our Quality Assurance Department who have advise the following Bread from our in-store Bakeries are baked without the use of any artificial additives or processing aid,

Half Baguette                                
Original French Baguette                 
Petit Pain                                
Multigrain Petit Pain                        
Boule Rustique                        
Stone Baked Baguette                
Ciabatta Roll                                 
Butter Croissant                        
Pain au Chocolat                         
Pumpkin Seed Roll                        

Pumpkin Seed Roll and Artisan Rye Loaf have no artificial additives ascorbic acid is already added to the flour in the mill, it is not effective in the final product and therefore not declared.

Also we can advise that our Bread is brought into our stores part frozen then cooked in store.

We hope this information has been of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely,
For and on behalf of Lidl UK GmbH

15 August 2011

We sent the following email to Lidl:

I co-ordinate the Real Bread Campaign and have just read in British Baker magazine that Lidl is rolling out in-store bakeries.

It appears from the article that all are bake-off operations, i.e. bringing in previously baked loaves and re-baking them in store to brown the crust. Is this correct or are you baking from scratch in any stores?

My second question is - which of your in-store bakery loaves are baked without the use of any artificial additives or processing aids? If you are able to say that any are, you will be the first supermarket chain in the UK to tell us that any of its in-store bakery loaves are what we call Real Bread.

Pret a Manger

July 2011

Could it be that the reason that Pret's sandwiches are not 'plastered with labels containing lots of boring numbers, names, dates and symbols' is simply that current legislation does not require them to do so, rather than because the loaves and wraps it uses are made without them?

In July 2011, it was brought to our attention that Pret claims that it 'creates hand made, natural food, avoiding the obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives common to so much of the 'prepared' and 'fast' food on the market today.'

On the back of one of its sandwich cartons, it points out that 'English law insists factory-produced sandwiches are plastered with labels containing lots of boring numbers, names, dates and symbols.' By contrast, it notes that Pret sandwiches do not have labels. We believe the inference is that Pret sandwiches are made without substances that could fall into any of these categories.

So, we asked Pret:

  • Are Pret sandwiches - more specifically the loaves, baguettes etc you use to make them with - all produced without the use of any artificial additives or processing aids?
  • Could you please point me to where I can find complete lists of ingredients, additives and processing aids used to produce your loaves and wraps, or email those details back to me?

The company's technical manager responded that 'Pret’s recipes are obviously an extremely important part of the company’s know how and we are not in the habit of sharing these with the general public.'

Whilst we understand that a company may have certain 'trade secrets', surely if Pret was using what we call Real Bread (i.e. flour, water, yeast and salt, plus in some cases, nuts, seeds etc), this recipe wouldn't be one of them.

Pret's reticence to divulge what goes into its loaves and wraps leads us to believe that they are in fact made using one or more of the 'obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives' it claims to avoid.

We cannot agree with Pret's statement that 'no label is good', or with the law that indeed says that a list of ingredients is not needed on food prepared for direct sale. A list of ingredients and nutritional information on the label is a key element in enabling people to make better informed choices about the food they eat.

Pret's technical manager also wrote that 'Creating a recipe for bread which produces thousands of loaves a day with a shelf life of more than a few hours is a demanding task and we would be happy to discuss this further with the Real Bread team.'

We replied that if Pret would like to send to us an outline of their general requirements, we'll be happy to help them circulate this (or even an invitation to tender) to the Real Bread bakers in our network. To date, they have declined to send this information to us.

Greggs PLC

Updated May 2015

  • On 19 May 2015, The BBC reported that the chain had admitted it is now only selling loaves ‘where we see high levels of customer demand'.
  • On 9 January 2014, the Financial Times reported that the chain had in-store bakeries at a mere 79 of its 1671 outlets, and that it was even closing them.

The national chain's outlets are supplied by just nine, centralised industrial baking factories.

Updated September 2010

  • 22 July 2010 - we contacted Greggs via their online query form to ask which of their loaves are 100% additive free and which of their outlets bake from scratch on site. We received an auto-response that we would have a full reply within 3 working days. 
  • 28th July - Having not received the full reply, we emailed to follow up our query.
  • 6th September - still no reply, so we chased again.
  • 8th September - we received an email from Greggs stating that "Our Social Responsibility Manager will be contacting Sustain...tomorrow after 12.30pm to discuss this with you personally.." This did not happen.
  • 13th September Greggs called us to apologise for the delay.
  • 16th September - we finally received the following formal response:

"We believe the bread Greggs provides is high quality, freshly baked bread at the price and quality which our customers demand. Greggs bread making predominantly follows a traditional craft baking method, which includes a three hour ferment that is added to the dough.  So, in addition to flour, water, yeast and salt, we use this specially created ferment containing malts and yeast extract along with a secret natural ingredient, to give our bread its unique flavour.  All our bread is free from artificial colours, artificial flavours and contains no hydrogenated fats or oils.   We believe our Greggs recipe helps to produce superior bread quality that is more resilient and has a delicious crust and character, as evidenced by the continuous high regard shown for our products by customer research.

We are proud to have built our business over the years to a point where we now operate 1445 shops, served by our ten regional bakeries and employ 289 Master Bakers, who are “skilled bakers” having undergone a combination of external vocational qualifications as well as rigorous and continuous internal skills training.  Our bread is freshly made daily from scratch in our regional bakeries. 

We firmly believe that we bake and sell high quality bread which we are passionate about and gives our customers great quality, freshness and value."

  • 16th September - we responded, asking if Greggs was able to go further and confirm that any or all of their products meet our definition of Real Bread - i.e are made without the use of processing aids or artificial additives of any kind.
  • 6th October - we followed this up again. 
  • 12th October - Greggs said:

"As we said in our initial response, Greggs provides high quality, freshly baked bread at a price which our customers demand.

We can confirm that our bread is made slightly differently to the approach you describe in your campaign in that we use dough conditioners.  We bake our bread each day in our bakeries which is then delivered fresh to our shops each morning.  We believe the dough conditioners are necessary to provide optimum freshness for our customers at point of purchase in our shops.  Our combination of this; our natural liquid fermentation; our predominantly traditional bread making processes; our free from artificial colours and flavours approach; and the fact that our bread is free from hydrogenated fats and oils, is, we believe what gives our customers both quality and freshness.  

We hope that answers your query.  Thank you again for your interest."

Subway

Last updated September 2010

In February 2010, a Campaign member sent us this snap of the ingredients on the side of a Subway box. 

McDonalds

Last updated September 2010

Though ingredients lists are not printed on its packaging, the burger chain has a Q&A website, at which it gives answers about (amongst other things) the additives us uses in its buns.  Search for existing answers using keywords such as buns, or bread, or ask your own.

Which brands of wrapped loaves are Real Bread?

As far as we can tell, not many. Click here to read more about what hides in the industrial products that account for around 80% of the loaves we buy.

At present, the only mass-produced, pre-wrapped brands that have told us that they meet our definition of Real Bread are The Village Bakery, Vogels, Doves Farm and Cranks, as well as the light rye quarter sold under the Waitrose brand.

If your bakery produces pre-wrapped loaves without the use of artificial additives, flour 'improvers', dough conditioners, processing aids or any other artificial additive, please let us know.

What about spelt?

Spelt and coeliac disease, food allergy and intollerance

Spelt IS a type of wheat and is NOT gluten free!

It is NOT suitable for people with coeliac disease.

According to the Food Standard Agency's guidance notes for The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 (as amended), spelt is "...a cereal containing gluten and therefore a product containing spelt cannot be labelled as being gluten free. It may also be misleading to label a product containing “spelt” as wheat free as spelt is a type of wheat (Triticum spelta) and this would make spelt unsuitable for anyone with a wheat allergy or intolerance."

The protein level of spelt is similar to that of bread wheat, and the gliadins (the group of proteins that are toxic to people with coeliac disease) that combine with glutenins to form gluten are also similar in structure to bread wheat gliadins.

Spelt is in the same genus as modern bread making wheat. The biological name for modern bread making wheat is Triticum aestivum, and that for spelt is Triticum aestivum var. spelta, though often abbreviated to Trtiticum spelta. Just like bread wheat, the genetic structure of spelt is hexaploid - they both have six set of chromosomes.

That said, there are differences in spelt's gluten structure and some people who have been diagnosed by a food allergy expert as having an allergy or intolerance (neither of which is the same as coeliac disease, which is an auto-immune condition) to bread wheat or its gluten (and many more who are self-diagnosed) report that they have fewer, or no, problems digesting spelt. 

Einkorn and emmer are also members of the Triticum tribe.

See also coeliac disease, food allergy and food intolerance and Where can I find a gluten-free Real Bread recipe?.

Spelt in bread making

Though the overall protein content of spelt is generally high and the structure of its gliadins are similar to those of bread wheat, the structure of the gluten it forms is different and tends to be softer and less elastic than that of bread wheat gluten. This means that it is less able to trap carbon dioxide and so spelt loaves tend to rise less than bread wheat loaves.

If working with spelt flour, you might prefer to either 'cut your coat according to your cloth' and bake a lower rising type of loaf, or add strong bread making flour if you want a more voluminous loaf.

Further reading on spelt:

Is it better to use bottled water for bread making?

We've yet to hear from a professional baker who uses bottled water: it's far too expensive, a waste of plastic, and not necessary. The level of chorine in municipal supplies is so low that it has little effect on fermentation or flavour. Water hardness is a factor, but not really an issue until you reach large scale production. You can read more on water in baking here.

Is fresh yeast better than dried yeast?

Some people say they prefer the taste of Real Bread made with fresh, rather than dried, yeast. Others say they can't tell the difference.

One advantage of dried active yeast is that it will keep longer than fresh (months, rather than days or weeks), especially if you keep it in an airtight container in the fridge.

Dried active yeast should be the same thing as fresh (aka compressed or cake) yeast, just with much more of the water removed. Sadly, it is becoming harder (in the UK, at least) to find any brand that does not contain one or more artificial additives.  Please always read the label as any loaf made with yeast containing artificial additives is not what we call Real Bread.

Read how to adapt dried yeast recipes to use fresh yeast (and vice versa) here.

What's the difference between dried active and instant yeast?

Instant (aka fast-acting or quick) yeast is sold as finer granules that start working more quickly as they rehydrate more quickly and blend with other ingredients more rapidly. All brands we have seen also contain one or more artificial additives. 

As we advocate longer fermentation, and any loaf made with yeast containing artificial additives is not what we call Real Bread, we discourage people from using instant yeast.

Lof for loaf, sachets of instant yeast also work out much more expensive (and use more packaging) than fresh yeast or your own sourdough starter.

For conversions between how much dried active, fresh and instant yeast to use, click here.

And instant yeast?

Instant (aka fast acting or easy bake) yeast is the same species (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) as fresh and dried yeast, though it is a different strain, bred to produce more carbon dioxide in a shorter period of time.

Most brands of instant  yeast (including some that are certified organic) that we have found contain artificial additives and so loaves made using them fall outside the Campaign's permitted ingredients.

For more on yeast, click here.

Does dough need to be kept somewhere warm?

Although yeast is more active, and therefore will make dough rise more quickly at warmer temperatures, it will still produce carbon dioxide in cooler conditions. Even dough left in the fridge will rise, though it will take much, much longer. Many professional Real Bread bakers put dough in a special piece of equipment called a retarder to slow yeast activity down, partly to help control the time at which the dough will be ready to bake, and partly because the longer fermentation times allows more flavour to develop.

In fact, keeping dough somewhere too warm can lead to losing control of the fermentation, which can lead to over-proving. In extreme cases, this can cause the dough to collapse and perhaps evens start to break down and become unable to produce properly risen loaves. And if the put the dough somewhere too hot, you’ll kill the yeast, which dies at around 60-65C

Is added sugar necessary?

No. There is more than enough food for yeast in flour. Flour contains some simple sugars, and enzymes produced naturally by the yeast break down some of the starch into more sugars upon which the yeast then feeds.  Unless you are making an enriched, sweet bread, or know of another specific reason for which extra sugar is essential to give a particular result, we suggest you leave out any sugar called for by a recipe.

Is added fat or oil necessary?

No. Fat or oil can help the softness of the crust and to help a loaf stay moist slightly longer but it is not necessary. Using slightly more water in your dough will also help it to stay moist, and using a slower sourdough recipe will help delay staling even longer.

Who bakes the best Real Bread?

Well, they're your tastebuds, so we'll leave that up to you to decide! Our job is simply to help you find where to buy it.

That said, as Real Bread bakers put so much time, love and care into their baking (rather than artificial additives), they do tend to make pretty darn fine loaves...

How do I start a Real Bread Campaign in my country?

Well, you're more than welcome to join ours!

The Real Bread Campaign has supporters in more than 20 countries outside the UK.

...but we know that the best way to make things happen is for people to take action on local issues themselves, so we'd love to see you set something up for yourself. In case it's of use, here's what we did:

The way we started our Real Bread Campaign was setting up this website that lays out of beliefs, aims and plans, as well as a Real Bread Finder map to help people track down additive-free loaves locally and loads more information. We then started calling and emailing professional bakers we thought might share our beliefs and invited them to put their additive-free loaves on our map. We also set up a mailing list and invited everyone who is interested in our plans to sign up online for our monthly updates.

As part of a charity, we were then able to get a grant to begin our work, part of which was to build a mutually-supportive network. This we set up as a paid scheme, with the plan that eventually this will fund the Campaign fully - far more sustainable than having to apply for grants ever year or so.

With a very limited budget, key to our success has been our use of social media accounts to spread the word further. We also run activities that are not only in line with our aims but also have PR potential; building relationships with key people in relevant media outlets then helps to ensure that these get featured. Encouraging professional baker members to get involved in these activities and do their own PR work locally helps them get publicity for their own enterprises, Real Bread (and issues/questions surrounding the industrial stuff) in general and the Campaign as a whole.

One last thought - is there an organisation in your neck of the woods doing what you think needs to be done already? Here are some we've found that might.

For an example of an organisation that's taken inspiration from the international Real Bread Campaign and started their own national one, see Real Bread Ireland.