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What is Real Bread?
Everyone has their own idea of what Real Bread is. Here's the Real Bread Campaign's basic definition:
Real Bread is made without chemical raising agents, so-called processing aids or any other additives*
Simple, eh? That's because it is. Sadly (and depending on whose figures you believe) 95%+ of what is sold as 'bread' in the UK falls short of this very low bar.
Real Bread can be made by a genuine sourdough process, but doesn’t have to be – baker’s yeast and unleavened flatbreads fall within our definition.
This includes, but is not limited to,
Find Real Bread Look for The Loaf Mark
*The only exceptions we make are for so-called 'fortificants' in places where their addition to flour is mandatory. See 'why permit fortificants?'
There is no limit to the number of ingredients used to make Real Bread. Recipes might only involve flour, water and salt but can also include baker's yeast, seeds, nuts, cheese, milk, malt extract, herbs, oils, fats and dried fruits etc. as long as they themselves contain no additives.
Reclaim the name
We believe that our universally-inclusive definition of Real Bread should be the key criterion in the legal definition of bread full stop.
Why should bakers who make bread in a time-honoured, natural way have to qualify it with 'real', 'artisan', 'craft' and the like? We say let's reclaim the name bread and leave it to the industrial loaf fabricators to come up with a new name for their additive-laden products.
When referring to additive-laden industrial products, please do not use the noble name of bread - no more 'cotton wool bread', 'factory bread', 'supermarket bread', 'plastic bread', 'sliced bread', 'shop bought bread' etc.
Not all Real Bread is sourdough
All genuine sourdough is Real Bread but not all Real Bread is made by the sourdough process. Real Bread can also be unleavened bread or made using baker's yeast
Contrary to a common misperception/misunderstaning, we have nothing against baker's yeast*. Real Bread can be made using baker's yeast and a skilled baker can make great bread with it.
Two things to note:
- Bread made using baker's yeast can be Real Bread but it isn't genuine sourdough bread.
- Always read the label to make sure the yeast you're using is additive-free. If it has one or more additives, what you make with it won't meet our definition above. Yeast sold as 'quick' or 'fast acting' is very likely to contain additives.
* By which we mean Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is sold in fresh, liquid, and dried active forms.
Real Bread isn't a look, shape or style. It can be a hand-shaped, basket-proved, crusty, wholemeal, heritage grain boule with big holes in it, pulled fresh from a wood-fired oven by a true artisan baker...but doesn't have to be!*
Our universally-inclusive definition encompasses every type of additive-free baked, steamed, fried, roasted, griddled bread: bap, bagel, bialy, injera, wrap, khobez, baguette, chleb, naan, chapatti, roti, stottie cake, lavash, ruisleipä, ciabatta, bara brith, Staffordshire oatcake, tortilla, paratha, porotta, pitta, pida… the list goes on around the globe.
A sliced white sandwich tin loaf can be Real Bread - it's just that industrial loaf fabricators usually choose to exclude their products by using additives.
*On the flipside, watch out for products that look like this that are made using additives.
Who is Real Bread made by and for?
Real Bread is made and enjoyed by people of every age, nationality, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic heritage, differing ability, neurological status, religion/faith (or none), economic background, and identity, who speak every language and dialect worldwide.
We continue to address questions of affordability and other challenges to access to Real Bread.
What Real Bread isn't
The Real Bread Campaign believes that any product made using any additive should not be called bread.
Amongst the additives not used in Real Bread making are: Baking powder and other chemical raising agents; ascorbic acid; xanthan gum; added enzymes or any other so-called 'processing aids'. The exclusion applies to any additives in the flour (other than mandatory 'fortificants'), yeast, mix or other ingredients you use.
Gluten-free Real Bread
The Campaign celebrates gluten free Real Bread, as defined above. Unfortunately, the situation for people who want to avoid additives seems to be even harder for those who also need (or, for some reason, want) to avoid gluten.
The vast majority of commercial gluten-free products fail to meet our simple Real Bread criterion and we are not aware of many independent gluten-free Real Bread bakeries.
- If you bake gluten-free Real Bread for sale, please add your details to our Real Bread Map.
- If you've created a recipe for any type of gluten-free Real Bread that you’d be happy for us to publish in our recipes section please email it (ideally with a 1200x800pixel photo) to email@example.com
We have reached out to Coeliac UK a number of times, suggesting we work together on discovering and championing gluten-free Real Bread. Sadly they have declined, apparently preferring to accept and advocate the use of additives instead. Our door remains open!
Better bred bread
Not all loaves are created equal!
From our simple 'no additives' starting point, the Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet.
There is evidence that there are benefits of using:
- Longer fermentation in the presence of sourdough bacteria
- Wholemeal or other less-refined flours
- Stoneground flour
- A single, continuous process (i.e. no part-baking or freezing of the dough)
- Locally-milled flour
- Low salt levels (1% or less of final product weight)
- Certified biodynamic or organic ingredients
- Ancient or heritage grains
Please see our FAQs page for reasons why.
Is Real Bread the same as craft, artisan, fresh, organic etc?
Sometimes but not always.
- Craft baker / bread are terms that have no legal definition. Many people who identify as craft bakers don't use additives...but some do. The same applies to artisan baker / bread.
- Many bakers whose loaves are certified organic choose not to use any additives but, unlike our Real Bread definition, organic standards do still allow some to be used.
- There are no legal defintions of a whole range of marketing terms including traditional, natural, finest ingredients, farmhouse, and heritage. None guarantees a loaf was made without additives.
- Claims of freshness do not guarantee that additives haven't been used, or even that the bread has been made from scratch that day. Despite official guidance, claims such as 'freshly baked', 'baked in store' and 'baked today/every day' are used to market 'bake-off' products: i.e. made elsewhere, chilled or frozen and then re-baked in-store.*
The only way to be sure if a product is Real Bread is by reading the ingredients list or (if the baker/retailer doesn't display one) ask a member of staff for it.
Read our call for an Honest Crust Act of better loaf labelling and marketing laws here.
The Real Bread Campaign believes that to be named or marketed using the word sourdough, bread must be:
- Made without any additives (ie the criterion in our basic definition of bread)
- Leavened only using a live sourdough culture, without the addition of baker's yeast or other raising agents.
Read more about sourdough and sourfaux
Why permit so-called fortificants?
This is not something we do willingly. The alternative, however, is to say that in the UK (and elsewhere that there are mandatory flour additives) Real Bread can only be made from wholemeal and non-wheat flours.
While we very much advocate wholemeal flour and bread, we believe that people should have the chance to choose white or brown as well.
Real Bread Campaign: The Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. Whether your interest is local food, community-focussed small enterprises, honest labelling, therapeutic baking, or simply tasty toast, everyone is invited to become a Campaign supporter.
Support our charity
Your donation will help support the spread of baking skills and access to real bread.