/ Food & Drink

Real bread versus the other stuff

It’s Real Bread Maker Week – we’re joined by Real Bread Campaign’s coordinator Chris Young who shares his thoughts about our daily bread. Do you enjoy real bread or are you happy to settle for a supermarket loaf?

How would you like to see the future unfold: a time in which all loaves are made in enormous out-of-town factories employing relatively few people where they produce more and more additive-laced, fluffy loaves that people squeeze like toilet rolls in the supermarket?

Or would you rather see a growing multitude of small, independent bakeries owned and run by members of your local community baking delicious, genuinely fresh, genuinely good value real bread? Would you rather support payouts for shareholders or more jobs per loaf?

The state of ‘bread’ in Britain

There was a time when all loaves came fresh from our own ovens, or from neighbourhood bakeries that gave skilled employment to tens of thousands of people within our local communities. It was a time of baking bread with nothing but natural ingredients, time, skill and passion.

Now, between 95% and 97% of the loaves we buy are made by just a handful of industrial baking operators and the supermarkets themselves.

Often these are laced with artificial additives, made using higher levels of yeast than traditional baking and methods that don’t allow the dough to ‘ripen’ in its own time. It’s possible that one or more of these contribute to the problems some people report after eating industrial loaves.

So what can I do?

Well, at the Real Bread Campaign, we reckon a good start would be to know what you’re buying. Is that crusty, nice-smelling supermarket in-store bakery baguette all it appears?

Was it in fact part-baked elsewhere using a cocktail of processing aids or other artificial additives, then finished off in the shop’s ‘loaf tanning salon’? Was that ‘wholemeal’ factory loaf made with only whole grain wheat flour, or is there barley, soya, and added wheat protein in there too?

And we say support your local independent bakery! If you’re lucky enough to have one near you, pop in, have a chat and pick up a delicious loaf. For the sake of more local jobs per loaf, we believe it’s worth paying an honest price for an honest crust. And to see if it’s what we call Real Bread, look for The Loaf Mark!

Roll up your sleeves

Another way to make sure you and your family get the best is to bake your own bread at home. Whether by hand or by bringing an unloved bread machine back into use, home baking allows you to take control of exactly what does – and doesn’t – go in the food you and your kids (if you have them) enjoy. Home-baked real bread: now that’s true good value!

What do you think about mass-produced supermarket loaves? Do you bake your own bread or support your local independent bakery?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young – all opinions expressed here are their own, not necessarily those of Which?


One of the problems with most bread is the high salt content and this has featured in another Which? Conversation. Most of us should be eating less salt to avoid increasing our blood pressure.

It is the sodium in sodium chloride (table salt) that causes the problem and various products (Lo Salt is the best known brand) containing mainly potassium chloride have been on the market for years to help us decrease our sodium intake. I do not understand why bakeries do not use these products, which are cheap and could be of benefit to anyone wanting to avoid the need to take pills for blood pressure control.


Until ingredient and nutritional data labelling on bakery products improves , the consumer has no way of making an informed choice.

Most “nice” looking bread has no information associated with it at all !


Absolutely. That would be slightly more useful than knowing the nutritional content of 100 grams of English Mustard.

Sophie Gilbert says:
11 May 2012

I’d rather have no bread than eat supermarket cardboard. I’m lucky I’ve got an excellent, long-established deli-bakery near me and their bread is a treat each time and not too expensive either. I must say that I don’t know anything about the ingredients, however. I’m hoping that because I eat bread in small quantities I’m not slowly getting poisoned.


When I lived in Haarlem, at the end of my street there were at least 3 different bakeries. You could choose from the ace selection there or go to the out of town (Albert Heijn) and buy cardboard.

Similarly in Duesseldorf, cardboard from the supermarkets yet fantastic selections from multiple bakeries throughout the city.

I prefer real bread, but if there aren’t many local bakeries around how can we not go to the supermarket?


Sawdust [cellulose,cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, etc.] is widely used as a ‘filler’ for bread.
Mixed with flour, it bulks it out but cannot be digested by us and has no nutritional value.
This form of cellulose is waste & thus far cheaper than flour.

I buy my bread from the local bakery in my village, I wouldn’t even feed mass produced bread to animals.


When holidaying in Croatia the bakers there would trim loaves to the size you wanted, so if you just wanted a bit rather than a massive loaf you could. Wish they did the same here.

Marc says:
11 May 2012

I think that the Chorleywood Bread Process of 1961 has a lot to answer for:


Thanks for the link, Marc. What the Chorleywood Bread Process allowed us to do was to use UK wheat to produce a consistent product that was cheap and most people were happy with, and still are. Apart from using yeast it must be the biggest advance in bread making.

We may want ‘real’ bread but not everyone does. And look how many people prefer drink mass produced characterless lager rather than real beer.


I bake my own bread now and it surprised me just how easy it really is. I often use my Kenwood Chef to knead the dough so it doesn’t even take much skill to make – just a bit of planning on a Friday evening to give the dough time to rise before I bake it not long before bedtime. That way I have fresh bread for the weekend and know exactly what goes into it. I often make an extra loaf, slice it and freeze it so I can take it out one slice at a time as I want it through the week when I haven’t got the time to bake it fresh. As I’m careful about the flour and yeast I buy I know exactly what is in my bread too.

Robint says:
16 May 2012

Agreed, we consumers really need to know what we are being sold as food – and then make an informed choice – no contest.

FYI a friend of mine worked for RHM some years ago and told me that there was no real difference in the standard white sliced loaf and the so called wholemeal one except for a caramel colouring agent and the abiltity to charge more

But to be fair he did say that the industry produced a perfectly reasonable long lasting product at a budget price appreciated by millions of consumers daily

So called real breads dont last long before going stale. A french baguette goes off within hours – but it is lovely.

Up to you


A wholemeal loaf should be baked using flour made from whole grain. A brown loaf could be coloured using caramel, molasses or other materials. Many years ago I bought a brown loaf that was white in parts. We really do need proper labelling so that the consumer knows what they are buying.

Much of the bread we buy contains anti-staling agents, added for our convenience and to help avoid waste.

Jumbo says:
13 June 2012

I have found that most bread contains vinegar, and it tastes horrible. Warburtons seeded seems to be o.k. so I buy that. I used to bake my own but couldn’t find a good flour.
Any ideas anyone?