B2B firms know artisan doesn’t mean….well, artisan, says ASA

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

The Real Bread Campaign was left 'disappointed' by the ASA's lack of action. © iStock
The Real Bread Campaign was left 'disappointed' by the ASA's lack of action. © iStock

Related tags Bread

An advert for a bread mix that promises “an easy way to make sour dough and artisan breads” is not misleading because it targets B2B firms who know the end product will be ‘artisan-style’, says the UK’s advertising watchdog.

As such, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected the complaint lodged by the Real Bread Campaign, and did not investigate further.

The British Bakels advert appears on the company’s website and was published in the British Baker Magazine – “space specifically targeted to those in the industry”, ​the ASA said.

“This is a significantly different context than if it was to appear to the general public as those in the industry will have more knowledge about bread and much less likely to be misled. Consumers would likely interpret the claim ‘artisan’ in this context as meaning that the end-product will be artisan-style bread, and therefore, are unlikely to be misled.”

The advert contains feedback from one satisfied customer, David Hall from the London Bread and Cake Company, who said Bakel's mix removed one of the main barriers to creating actual artisanal bread - "understanding​" how it is done.

“Fermentation can take up to 60 hours. It’s like wine and cheese, the longer you lay it down, the better quality the product and customers are prepared to pay a premium for this. Artisan Bread Complete enables us to reduce fermentation to just one hour but still delivers the taste and flavour required.

David Hall ferments his dough for just 60 minutes. © Bakels

”I would recommend Bakels Artisan Bread Complete as an easy way for bakers to enter this market. The two mains barriers of cost and understanding are removed. You can use the existing equipment and you don’t need to know about pH and acidity. It makes artisan breads easy to produce.”

But the Real Bread Campaign says it is disappointed by the lack of ASA action, arguing even non-artisan bakery owners, as well as consumers, are likely to be misled.

“We believe that the intention of the advertisement is very clear – to lead non-artisan bakery owners, or at very least the end consumers (i.e. shoppers) to believe that loaves made using this product are ‘artisan bread’ and therefore warrant a premium price.

“Nowhere does the advertiser state or suggest that the loaves could be marketed merely as ‘artisan style’. Whilst we’re confident that genuine artisan bakers would not be misled by this advertisement, it isn’t targeted towards them.

"It is designed to attract business owners who do not employ genuine artisan bakers but who would like to be able to charge a premium for their products anyway. As such, the level of knowledge about artisan baking amongst such business owners may well be little enough to leave them open to being misled."

Follow the French

Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign told FoodNavigator it was looking to secure enough financial support to research different EU member state food laws relating to bread and see how they compare to the UK’s.

But in the meantime it is calling on Britain to follow the French example, which since 1993 has given legal definition of the terms and conditions under which bread must be made if it is to call itself traditional French bread. 

© British Bakels

The recipe must not contain any artificial additives, the recipe must contain only wheat flour, water, salt, bakers’ yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae​) and leaven, and the bread may not be frozen at any point during the process.  

The term sourdough may only be used by bread that has a maximum pH level of 4.3 and an acetic acid content of at least 900 parts per million.

Meanwhile, Ireland has taken steps to reign in industry misuse of terms such as artisanal, homemade, farmhouse and traditional but, unlike in France, its definitions are guidelines only set by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

Under the guidelines, manufacturers claiming to make artisan products are limited in the quantity they can produce – an average maximum of 1,000 kg/litres per week.

The products must also be made by skilled craftspeople at a single location using a traditional method, in use for a minimum of 30 years, which is not fully mechanised.

Defining a concept?

But even for those who actively campaign for measures to protect artisan producers, such definitions can be limiting.

Founder and director of Artisan Food Law and food law expert, Gerry Danby, wrote on his online blog​:​  “These criteria would clearly put a brake on the excesses of Dominos artisan pizza and McDonald’s artisan chicken sandwich. On the other hand, they also draw something of an arbitrary line between what is and is not ‘artisan’ – employing 10 people or producing 1,100 kgs of food would not, for example, be ‘artisan’.

“This is the problem when seeking to define something which is more in the nature of a concept than a physical object susceptible to precise definition. In life there are some things which you instantly recognise, but would struggle to define.”

Related topics Ingredients Bread

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