Real Bread Campaign

Real Bread logo

What is Real Bread?

Real Bread is nothing fancy and has nothing to hide. 

And by bread, we mean crusty baps, sourdough, bagels, bialys, injera, khobez, cottage loaves, baguettes, chleb, naan, chapattis, roti, hard dough, stottie cakes, lavash, ruisleipä, ciabatta, bara brith, Staffordshire oatcakes, bannocks, tortillas, paratha, porotta, pitta, pida …the list goes on.

See also

Our definition

Everyone will have his or her own idea of what constitutes Real Bread, but here's how the Campaign defines it:

Real Bread is that made without the use of processing aids or any other artificial additives.*

Simple, eh?

Given our interest in fermentation, we also rule out baking powder and other chemical leavening - it's a blind alley so we'll leave campaigning for real soda loaves to someone else...

* Don't forget to check the labels of ingredients and any mixes you use to make sure none get into your dough that way. In particular, there are flours and mixes out there that contain ascorbic acid or added enzymes, and instant yeast usually has addtives. Always read the label!

The only exceptions we make are the four 'fortificants' added to most flour by law in the UK.

The essentials

Technically, the only ingredients essential for making bread are flour and water.With these two things you can make flatbreads, or nurture the yeasts and bacteria naturally present in the flour to create a sourdough culture.

That said, without a little pinch of salt bread can be a tad bland, and you might prefer to let someone else culture the yeast, rather than do it yourself.

So, for plain, leavened Real Bread (see below for other ingredients) that gives us at most:

  • Flour
  • Water 
  • Yeast (either commercial or a natural sourdough starter)
  • Salt

Anything else is, by definition, unnecessary.

Other ingredients

Sometimes, you might not want a plain loaf - you might want it enriched or otherwise jazzed up a bit.

Additional ingredients are great as long as they are natural (e.g. seeds, nuts, cheese, milk, malt extract, herbs, oils, fats and dried fruits) and themselves contain no artificial additives.

What Real Bread isn't

If you add anything but salt to butter, you can't call it butter; if you add anything at all to milk, it's no longer milk.  So why are we not afforded such legal protection when it comes to our daily bread?

The making of what we call Real Bread does not involve the use of any processing aids, artificial additives (which includes most flour 'improvers', dough conditioners and preservatives), chemical leavening (e.g. baking powder) or, well, artificial anything.

Which is more than can be said for many of the industrial products out there that are marketed under the noble name bread.

E481 (sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate), E472e (mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), E920 (l-cysteine), E282 (calcium propionate), E220 (potassium sorbate), E300 (ascorbic acid), E260 (acetic acid) soya flour, vegetable fat and dextrose are just some of the other things that you might find in an industrial loaf.

What’s more, its production also could have substances including phospholipase, fungal alpha amylase, transglutaminase, xylanase, maltogenic amylase, hemicellulase, oxidase, peptidase and protease but if the manufacturer deems them to be processing aids, it wouldn’t have to declare them on the label. 

This could apply to a wrapped/sliced factory loaf or one from a supermarket in-store bakery.

The latter does not even have to have an ingredients label to help you make an informed choice.

Better bred bread

From our simple 'no additives' starting point, we're finding and sharing ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet.

These include:

  • Longer fermentation (at least four hours), preferably in the presence of sourdough bacteria
  • Made using not only roller-milled white flour*
  • Made in one continuous process i.e. no part-baking or freezing of the dough
  • Made using  locally** milled flour
  • Has a salt content in line with FSA guidance - 1% or less of final product weight
  • Product is certified organic
  • Made be small, independent bakeries or at home

Please follow the links above or see our FAQs page for reasons why.

* e.g. all flour is stoneground, or all flour is over 80% extraction rate, or bread is made using at least 50% (by weight) wholemeal flour.

** In accordance with FARMA guidelines ‘A definition of 30 miles is ideal, up to 50 miles is acceptable for larger cities and coastal or remote towns and villages.’

Is Real Bread the same as craft, artisan, fresh, organic etc?

Sometimes but not always.

  • Craft and artisan are terms that have no legal definition. Many bakers who use these words don't use artificial additives...but some do.
  • Many bakers whose loaves are certified organic choose not to use any artificial additives but, unlike our Real Bread definition, organic standards do still allow some to be used.
  • Traditional, natural and finest ingredients are terms with no legal protection. None of them guarantees a loaf was made without the use of artificial additives.
  • Fresh means (in theory, at least) just baked. It doesn't guarantee that additives haven't been used. It also doesn't guarantee a loaf has been freshly baked from scratch on site - it might be what's known as a 'bake-off' product i.e. baked at some point in the past (possibly elsewhere), chilled or frozen and then re-baked in-store.*

The only way to be sure is to read the label or (if the baker hasn't put one on the wrapper or loaves for you to see, or you just fancy a chat) to ask the baker what went into his or her loaves.

Read our call for an Honest Crust Act on loaf labelling and marketing here.

* From 2014, retailers selling loaves treated in such a way without labelling that says so might be in breach the Food Information to Consumers Regulations (EU Regulation 1169/2011):

1. The name of the food shall include or be accompanied by particulars as to the physical condition of the food or the specific treatment which it has undergone (for example, powdered, refrozen, freeze-dried, quick-frozen, concentrated, smoked) in all cases where omission of such information could mislead the purchaser.