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ASA bans misleading Iceland factory loaf advert

Following a complaint from the Real Bread Campaign, on 14 October 2015 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that an advertisement marketing a range of mass-produced, part-baked loaves as handmade was ‘misleading’ and should not appear again.

See also

The Real Bread Campaign's complaint

8 June 2015

In its current ‘#PowerOfFrozen’ marketing campaign, the retail chain Iceland is advertising in print and online a range of frozen bake-off loaves manufactured by Borg Bakery.1  The Real Bread Campaign believes that wording and imagery used in this campaign is in breach of rules 3.1 and 3.3 on misleading advertising of The CAP Code.

Advertisement 1

A full page print advertisement for Iceland frozen products on the front cover of a wraparound advertisement on the 4 June 2015 issue of the London Evening Standard.  Laid over a photograph of rustic-looking loaves is the statement: ‘Frozen brings your freshly baked artisan bread straight from your oven.’

Issues

The Real Bread Campaign believes that:

  1. The advertised products are bake-off (ie baked and frozen to be re-baked) not ‘freshly baked’ bread.
  2. Products in this range are mass produced using industrial methods and artificial additives, and so by definition cannot be considered to be ‘artisan bread’.
  3. The advertisement omits this material information needed by the consumer to make an informed decision in relation to these products.

Advertisement 2

The online video advertisement titled ‘Discover how frozen lets you wake up & smell the freshly baked bread’ uploaded by Iceland on YouTube on 6 May 2015.2

Issues

The Real Bread Campaign believes that:

  1. The advertised products are bake-off (ie baked and frozen to be re-baked) not ‘freshly baked’ bread.
  2. The products in question are mass produced in a factory using a mainly (or even completely) automated industrial process and baked in modern deck ovens, not crafted by artisan bakers in small batches using the skilled manual, traditional wood-fired oven methods shown.
  3. Some of the products in the range are not manufactured using just the natural ingredients listed, but also using a number of other ingredients and artificial additives.
  4. The advertisement omits this material information needed by the consumer to make an informed decision in relation to these products.

Further details

When used in relation to bread, ‘fresh’ or ‘freshly baked’ refers to loaves that have been made from scratch in a continuous process, with no part-baking or freezing of the dough. In this advertising campaign, Iceland clearly states that the products are ‘freshly baked’, which is in direct contradiction to the fact that they are baked and frozen loaves, which the consumer then has to re-bake.

Relative to genuinely freshly baked Real Bread, this bake-off system can have negative results, in terms of doubling the energy used and loaves staling faster, so increasing the potential for food waste and financial loss by the shopper. Advertising them as ‘freshly baked’ conceals these facts from the consumer, and also guides him or her to making an unjustified like-for like comparison with genuinely freshly baked bread from a local bakery.

The print advertisement in the #PowerOfFrozen campaign states that the products are ‘artisan bread’. The online advertisement reinforces this claim with a sequence that begins with an exterior shot of a traditional windmill, before cutting to what appears to be the small, artisan bakery inside. There, a man in traditional baker’s outfit, who introduces himself as Borg, is shown mixing, kneading, scaling, shaping and loading dough into a wood-fired brick oven, all by hand. Borg the baker says “our stonebaked breads are made from the best wheat, starter dough, water, salt and an amount of yeast.”

We believe that using the word ‘artisan’ and presenting as fact an artisan baker working in a traditional windmill’s small, wood-fired brick oven artisan bakery is utterly misleading.  Artisan bread isn’t a look, trend or vibe. Artisan bread can only be made in small batches by bakers experienced in the skilled manual processes of the type shown in the video. A genuine artisan baker typically works in a small to medium enterprise at, or local to, the point of sale. An artisan baker does not bake and freeze loaves to be re-baked at some distant place and time in the future.

The products being advertised by Iceland, a large national chain with an annual turnover of around £2.7million, are not being supplied by a network of small, independent artisan bakeries of the type shown, each local to one of its 800 stores. By stark contrast to the advertising campaign’s language and fictional visual representation, Borg Bakery states on its website that it has: ‘the industrial capabilities to produce high volume, low cost rolls, sticks and breads on the very latest state of the art mixing, cutting, proofing and bakery equipment.’

Further, Borg Bakery uses far more than just the stated wheat, starter dough, water, salt and yeast in the frozen bake-off products sold by Iceland.  Other ingredients and artificial additives used variously to manufacture certain products in the range include: diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (E472e, aka DATEM), tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E472d), calcium propionate (E200), calcium sulphate (E516), sodium acetate (E262), lactic acid (E330), dextrose, refined wheat gluten and rape seed oil.3 4 5

An artisan baker does not use artificial additives, relying instead on the quality of her/his ingredients, natural processes, and high levels of skill and experience.  A loaf made using such is, therefore, not artisan bread.

We ask the Advertising Standards Authority to please investigate the claims made by the advertiser and rule against any and all misleading use of ‘artisan bread’, ‘freshly baked’, and other language and imagery that does not represent the reality of the production content of the advertised products.

I confirm that the Real Bread Campaign agrees to be named as the complainant, and we do not intend to initiate any legal action in relation to this complaint.

  1. Home Bakery
  2. Discover how frozen lets you wake up & smell the freshly baked bread
  3. Everyday Mini Dinner Roll Selection 15 x 30g
  4. Everyday White Petits Pains
  5. Stonebaked Ciabatta

Real Bread Campaign response to ASA draft recommendations

On 17 September 2015, the ASA investigations teams sent the Real Bread Campaign a copy of its draft recommendation (which became the final ruling) to the ASA council. Our response was as follows:

21 September 2015

Thank you for the Advertising Standards Authority investigation team’s draft recommendation to the ASA council regarding Iceland’s ‘Power of Frozen’ campaign.

We are delighted to read that the recommendation includes that elements of the advertisements are misleading and should not appear again.

At the same time, we are disappointed that the team has recommended that the ASA Council should, as it appears to us, protect large corporate interests over those of shoppers interested in fresh food produced in traditional ways, and small-scale artisan food producers.

Is it not utterly disingenuous to suggest that a large, industrial manufacturer would exploit the language and marketing value of genuine attributes (in this case ‘fresh’ and ‘artisan’) and then argue that shoppers would realise that they couldn't possibly be true? Surely the only reason for an advertiser to use the language and imagery of freshly-baked artisan bread in order to market a frozen, industrial product is to lead the shopper to make a direct, but misleading, association with genuine freshly-baked artisan bread.

We believe that if the ASA allows advertisers to use the word ‘artisan’ in the marketing of food products manufactured on an industrial scale, using artificial additives and industrial methods, the ASA will be responsible for reducing the word ‘artisan’ to meaningless marketing spin, betraying the trust of shoppers and the hard work and skill of genuine artisan bakers over many generations. This will undermine the rightful claims, and threaten the livelihoods, of genuine artisan food producers.  The ASA would also be making a very big assumption about the knowledge of the majority of shoppers. A supermarket is theoretically able to stock genuinely fresh products crafted by genuine artisan food producers, but Iceland does not, and only claims to. How can the ASA state that shoppers would not be misled by this?

A supermarket such as Iceland could stock genuinely fresh bread, crafted by genuine artisan bakers, either by building an in-store bakery, then training and employing people as skilled, artisan bakers; or by individual (or small groups of) stores buying Real Bread from a local genuine artisan bakery; or by buying from a larger bakery that has scaled up to allow regional or national distribution not by the use of industrial substances and methods a genuine artisan baker would not use, but by employing more genuine artisan bakers.

We believe that allowing claims such as ‘artisan’ and ‘fresh’ to continue being used to market frozen industrial products goes against the spirit, and perhaps even the letter, of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (EU) 1160/2011. This requires that information shall not be misleading as to the characteristics of food and, in particular, its nature, identity, properties, composition, provenance or method of manufacture or production.

Should the ASA not uphold our complaint in full, we believe that protection for Britain’s shoppers and small-scale bakers would be at risk of falling behind Ireland, where the Food Safety Authority has recently published guidance on the use of the term ‘artisan’, limiting it to foods made in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople in a micro enterprise at a single location, using methods that are not fully mechanised and follow a traditional approach.

Britain would also be in the shadow of Australia, where the Federal Court ruled that a supermarket using the word ‘fresh’ to market previously frozen loaves was misleading.

In preparing this response, we consulted baking industry expert Andrew Whitley of Bread Matters, who ran The Village Bakery Melmerby from 1976 to 2002, who now generously gives of his advice, training and expertise to promote Real Bread and artisan bakers. By the end of his professional career in bread production, his bakery was making Real Bread using genuine artisan methods and ingredients to supply supermarkets nationally. Please see below my signature for his expert opinion, which we would like you to take into consideration when reviewing this case.

Comments from Andrew Whitley:

In its advertising, Iceland segments its range into ‘stone baked’ and ‘every day breads’, implying that being ‘stone baked’ justifies the claim that they are ‘artisan’ products. ‘Stone baked’ is a marketing term that connotes the use of a traditional, stone-floored oven, such as the wood-fired brick oven shown in Iceland’s video. The truth, however, is that many modern ovens are fitted with a ceramic floor and their use in no way proves traditional fermentation methods or bakery size. Its use by Iceland shows that the language chosen by the advertiser is designed not to explain truthfully how the products are made, but to set up in consumers’ minds an association between authentic traditional methods and the range being marketed. This association is false and misleading.

Iceland’s claim that ‘the stone baked products did not contain any artificial ingredients or additives’ is misleading. They admit to adding refined dextrose and wheat gluten, but their justification that these are naturally present in the flour is disingenuous and misleading. It is only after water is added to flour that enzymic action converts some of the wheat starch into a natural form of dextrose.

Consumers may well associate ‘artisan’ with the use of unrefined (or at least less refined) natural ingredients, fewer to no artificial additives synthesised ingredients, natural processes (e.g. genuine sourdough fermentation) and healthier outcomes. Iceland’s imagery and language falsely suggest that their ‘stone baked’ range may offer these. The refined dextrose powder added by industrial bakers is not a natural ingredient. Dextrose is a form of glucose and so has a very high glycaemic index (GI). Given the growing problems of type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, there are public health implications of industrial manufacturers adding refined sugars to processed foods.

Further, Iceland should be asked to confirm the source of their added dextrose, as “most dextrose is made from genetically modified (GMO) corn, using GMO enzymes.”  Should the dextrose used be of GMO origin, it would further detract from any claim of artisan quality or suggestion of tradition or naturalness.

Adding highly refined wheat gluten is characteristic of industrial baking. Artisan bakers appreciate the variability of flour and measure their skill by their daily encounter with it. The need to ‘ensure consistent fermentation and structure’, stated by Iceland, only makes sense when dough is being processed by machines on a large scale. Machines require ‘consistency’ in raw materials to operate efficiently. Skilled artisan bakers can cope with variability. So the use of functional additives marks a product out as NOT being artisan. Iceland’s advertising seeks to present products as something that they are not.

A product with added gluten, marketed as ‘artisan’, risks misleading consumers in a further important respect. Added gluten is a concentration of wheat proteins, including glutenin and gliadin. Both the latter contain epitopes (fractions) known to trigger conditions such as coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. While these proteins may affect some people more than others for genetic reasons, it is a fact that many people are seeking to lower their intake of gluten or remove it completely from their diet. Adding refined gluten to bread seems, at the very least, oblivious to this public health issue. Doing so while suggesting that the resulting bread is somehow traditional (windmill/hand mixing/wood-fired oven) and therefore more natural is misleading and may lead to consumers making an inappropriate choice of loaf.

The claim that Iceland’s technology ‘applied the traditional principles of bread making on an industrial scale’ is bogus. It would be more accurate to say that their technology has perverted traditional principles of bread making in order to create a thin veneer or crust of apparent authenticity for industrial loaves manufactured in large quantities.

ASA letter replying to our response

23 September 2015

Thank you for your letter of 21 September. We should state at the outset that we have not been persuaded to alter our draft recommendation however, our response to the concerns you have raised is set out below.

The recommendation is not intended to protect any particular interest but has been arrived at, on an objective basis, by assessing the extent to which we consider the claims are likely to mislead consumers. It is acceptable for marketers to present their products as desirable, provided they comply with the Code in doing so. In this case, we consider the use of “artisan” is not misleading in the context in which it appears in ad (a), given the clear references to “frozen” and home baking. However, that is not to suggest we consider the claim would be acceptable in all circumstances. As the draft recommendation sets out, we consider ad (b) goes further (albeit it does not include the word “artisan”) and presents a misleading impression of the way in which the bread is produced, despite it being clear the products are intended to be baked at home. Similarly, we consider the claim “freshly baked”, in the particular circumstances of the two ads, is likely to be understood to reflect the home baking process and therefore also does not mislead. We consider a legal ruling made in Australia does not apply to this instance however, if “freshly baked”, or a similar claim, was used in a context in which we considered it was likely to mislead consumers about the product, we would recommend that such an ad was in breach of the Code.

It is not for the ASA to prescribe whether particular words can be used only in certain scenarios, given that such decisions must be based on misleadingess taking into account that the average consumer is reasonably well-informed, observant and circumspect. We
consider there is sufficient information in the ads (aside from the elements we have
recommended are problematic) to allow the average consumer to understand that the
bread is not produced on a small-scale, or using only traditional ingredients, and that it is to
be baked at home. We have already taken the Food Information to Consumers Regulation
into account and, as explained, we consider the advertising is not entirely problematic, but
where we consider the impression given by it is misleading we have recommended that
element of the complaint is ‘upheld’. Similarly, we are aware of the guidance in Ireland but
that is issued by a statutory food body and there is no similar situation here. If that was the
case, we would of course also take that into account. We appreciate that supermarkets
might choose to produce/buy bread using different techniques but, again, if the method
they opt to use is not presented in advertising in a way that breaches the Code, it is not for
the ASA to comment on that.

We have also considered the opinion from Andrew Whitley. In response to his comments,
firstly the ASA has to reflect the advertiser’s response in the report but that is not to say we
necessarily agree (or disagree) with each element of it. Our assessment is necessarily
focused on the issues raised, and whether the ads breach the Code in those respects.
While Mr Whitley’s view is that the ads promote disingenuous connotations, as explained
above, we consider they are misleading in relation to the issues raised only insofar as the
draft recommendation already sets out. We cannot comment on the public health
implications of the inclusion of particular ingredients, only whether the marketing claims, in
the context in which they appear, are likely to mislead consumers. The recommendation in
relation to the ingredients is that while we understand the stone baked products contain a
reduced number of ingredients when compared to some other mass-produced products,
the context of ad (a) is such that consumers are likely to understand that these are indeed
mass-produced items and, as such, might contain ingredients additional to those used in
traditional baking processes.

Our recommendation therefore remains that the complaints about ad (a) should not be
‘upheld’ and that concerns about ad (b) should be ‘upheld’ in part only. However, the ASA
Council might disagree with our position and in that case the report will be amended
accordingly.

We will now make the case available to the Council and will contact you again once the
final ruling is confirmed.

ASA ruling


Case number: A15-305403
Iceland Foods Limited
Second Avenue
Deeside Industrial Park
Deeside
Flintshire
CH5 2NW

Media: Internet (video), Regional press
Sector: Retail
Agency:None
Number of complaints : 2

Background
Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, one was Not Upheld, one was Upheld and one was Upheld in part.

Ad
A regional press ad and an online video, for Iceland Foods:

a. the press ad included images of loaves of bread and stated “Frozen brings you freshly baked artisan bread straight from your oven … #PowerofFrozen”.

b. the online video also featured images of various bread products, including the packaged products, and claims made by the presenter included “all of the items featured on this video are part of our new bakery range … The range includes stone baked and every day breads, as well as patisseries, ensuring that you and your family can enjoy freshly baked treats … These yummy products have literally just been baked straight from the freezer … This entire range is … easy to cook”. It also showed the exterior of a windmill, and an interview with a baker, who appeared to be inside the windmill. He was shown preparing dough by hand and baking it in a brick oven. He stated “we have a lot of beautiful products in the Iceland range. My favourites are the sourdough loaf, the corn bread and the rye bread … our stone baked bread is made from the best wheat, sourdough, water, salt and an amount of yeast … The philosophy … is that we only use natural ingredients. We want to go back to the roots of baking. … Once at home, store the bread in the freezer, bake the bread frozen in the oven …”. The presenter continued “my favourite part of this range is the Belgian waffles …”. The final shots were also of several different products.

Issue
1. The Real Bread Campaign (Sustain) and a member of the public, who understood the bread was produced using automated industrial techniques, and that at least some of the products included artificial additives, challenged whether the use of “artisan”, in ad (a), and the depiction of the baking process, in ad (b), were misleading.

The Real Bread Campaign also challenged whether:

2. the claim “freshly baked” in both ads was misleading, because they understood the products were intended to be cooked from frozen; and
3. the claim “our stone baked bread is made from the best wheat, sourdough, water, salt and an amount of yeast” in ad (b) was misleading, because they believed the product included additional ingredients such as artificial additives.

Response
1. Iceland Foods Ltd (Iceland) said all of their stone baked bread products were produced using a long fermentation process and stone floor ovens. The mixing and fermenting could take up to 20 hours and after cutting and shaping the dough, the loaves were proved for a further two hours before baking. They said the bakery that produced the stone baked range had confirmed it did not use a high speed mixing process for those products, but low gear mixers that allowed for greater water absorption. They had also confirmed that no undeclared processing aids were used during manufacturing. Qualified bakers developed artisan products, which were then scaled up and produced using technology that applied the traditional principles of bread making on an industrial scale. Iceland said the scenes of the windmill and the bread being kneaded in ad (b) were intended to represent the traditional methods and ingredients involved in producing the stone baked products. They believed that while the products were not made or kneaded by hand, consumers were not likely to be misled into believing the products were produced in a windmill, because they would expect such items to be mass-produced.

Iceland believed that “artisan”, in ad (a), was also not misleading and that because the expression was now more widely used than previously, consumers would appreciate that its use had altered over time. They understood the complainant’s view was that artisan bread was that cooked in small batches using skilled manual processes at or near to the point of sale, but believed that consumers would not understand from “artisan” that the products were produced in the way the complainant described. While Iceland believed the ad was not misleading, they said they were prepared to make changes to it.

2. Iceland said the products were to be oven baked from frozen by consumers. They believed the references to “freshly baked” were not misleading in the contexts in which they appeared, because the ads made clear that the bread should be baked in the consumer’s own oven; as such, it was freshly baked from frozen. They pointed out that ad (a) stated “frozen brings you freshly baked artisan bread straight from your own oven”, and that ad (b) said “baked straight from the freezer”. They believed the use of “freshly baked” was not limited to instances where bread was baked from scratch in a continuous process, with no part-baking or freezing of the dough, but that the context in which the claim was made was of importance. The ads did not claim that the products were freshly baked when they were purchased, but instead made clear the baking was carried out by the consumer. They said the bakery had confirmed the products were fresh when they underwent the freezing process.

3. They explained that the stone baked products did not contain any artificial ingredients or additives. The only additives were dextrose and wheat gluten, both of which were also naturally present in the flour. Those ingredients were added to ensure consistent fermentation and structure could be achieved, despite naturally varying flour. They provided details of the ingredients and specifications of each of their six stone baked products.

Assessment
1. Upheld (in relation to ad (b) only)
The ASA noted that “artisan”, in ad (a), was used in the context of the claim “Frozen brings you freshly baked artisan bread straight from your oven” and that the ad also included the text “#PowerofFrozen”. As such, we considered it made clear the bread was sold frozen, to be baked at home. We also noted ad (a) did not make any claims about ingredients or baking processes. For those reasons, and given that the Iceland brand was one that would be recognisable to many consumers, we considered consumers were likely to understand it was probable that such products would be produced on an industrial scale and, as such, might include ingredients additional to those used during hand baking processes. We considered, in the context in which it appeared, “artisan” was likely to be understood to mean that the products concerned were artisan-style, or ‘premium’, frozen items, rather than, for example, that the loaves were made using the same ingredients and processes as hand baking. We understood that all of the bread shown in ad (a) was from the stone baked range, and that it was subject to fewer processes, and contained fewer additional ingredients, than some other mass-produced products. Given that, and the way in which we considered consumers were likely to understand the claim within the overall context of ad (a), we concluded that it was not misleading.

We noted ad (b) included the statements “These yummy products have literally just been baked straight from the freezer” and “Once at home, store the bread in the freezer, bake the bread frozen in the oven”. We again considered consumers were likely to understand that the products were intended to be baked at home, rather than to be eaten directly after purchase as might be the case with bread bought from a bakery. We also considered consumers were likely to appreciate that products available at a large national retailer were likely to be mass-produced. However, we considered the depiction of the baking process in ad (b), which appeared to take place in the setting of a windmill and showed the bread being prepared from scratch, including kneading, cutting and shaping the loaves by hand, along with claims such as “we want to go back to the roots of baking”, was such that it was likely to be understood to mean the products in question were instead produced by hand, before being sold for home freezing and baking, whereas that was not the case.

Unlike ad (a), ad (b) showed the entire product range and, as such, we considered it was likely to be interpreted as suggesting all of the items were produced in the way depicted. However, while we understood that the stone baked items were subject to a reduced number of processes and ingredients when compared to some other mass-produced products, we also understood that none of the products in the range, including the stone baked items, were produced by hand. As set out at point 3 below, we also considered the ad suggested the products shown in ad (b), in particular the stone baked items, included fewer ingredients than was the case. Because the depiction of the baking process, and claims surrounding it, did not accurately reflect the way in which the products were produced, and suggested they contained fewer ingredients than was the case, we concluded that ad (b) breached the Code.

On that point, we investigated ad (a) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach. Ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

2. Not upheld
As set out above, we noted ad (a) stated “Frozen brings you freshly baked artisan bread straight from your oven” and “#PowerofFrozen” and did not include any claims about production processes. While ad (b) also included claims about the production process, the claim “freshly baked” did not appear in that part of the video. “Freshly baked” also appeared in the context of the statements “These yummy products have literally just been baked straight from the freezer” and “Once at home, store the bread in the freezer, bake the bread frozen in the oven”. We therefore considered consumers were likely to understand the products were intended to be baked at home before eating, and that “freshly baked” therefore related to home baking, rather than to the bread being freshly baked prior to purchase. We concluded that the ads were not misleading on that point.

On that point, we investigated the ads under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising) but did not find them in breach.

3. Upheld
We considered the claim “our stone baked bread is made from the best wheat, sourdough, water, salt and an amount of yeast”, particularly in the context of the depiction of the baking process in ad (b), which we considered suggested the bread was handmade, was likely to be understood to mean the stone baked products included only the ingredients referred to. We noted the ad also included claims such as “we want to go back to the roots of baking” and “we only use natural ingredients”, which we considered contributed to that impression. However, we understood the stone baked range included additional ingredients, such as dextrose, wheat gluten and vegetable oil, and therefore that was not the case. Because it suggested the stone baked bread range included fewer ingredients than was the case, we concluded that ad (b) was misleading.

On that point, ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

Action
Ad (b) must not appear again in its current form. We told Iceland to ensure their future ads did not state or imply products were subject to fewer processes, or contained fewer ingredients, than was the case.

What you can do

If you see/hear any advertisement in print, online, broadcast or on billboards and believe it to be misleading, you can:

  • Write to the advertiser demanding that it withdraws from its advertising any elements that you believe are misleading.
  • Write to the ASA outlining the ways in which you believe it breaches the Advertising Standards Code.  You can find full details of the code and the complaints procedure online.
  • Join the Real Bread Campaign to be part of the movement fighting for an honest crust and to support the charity leading this work

And of course, don't believe the hype: buy Real Bread from a local independent bakery (if you're lucky enough to have one) or bake your own.