When life gives you lemons … Bertinet Bakery banks on backlash for Better Bread campaign

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Bertinet Bakery is hoping to turn consumer frown's upside down by embracing the heated debate head-on about its new white sourdough recipe. Pic: GettyImages/Creative Bird
Bertinet Bakery is hoping to turn consumer frown's upside down by embracing the heated debate head-on about its new white sourdough recipe. Pic: GettyImages/Creative Bird

Related tags Bertinet Bakery sourdough Real bread campaign Real Bread Mark sourfaux Ancient grains better-for-you

While the culinary world notoriously rejects criticism – think footballer-turned-Michelin-starred-chef Gordon Ramsay and Sunday Times restaurant critic AA Milner – Bertinet is actually using the unique opportunity to challenge the British perception of better-for-you bread.

Ocado shoppers were recently up in arms after the Bath-based bakery overhauled the recipe for its premium-priced White Sourdough.

To its much-loved classic white (made from only white wheat flour, water and salt), it added wholemeal, barley and spelt flours – although not, like some outcries purported, to keep its own costs down with the war in Ukraine prompting spiking wheat prices, but to cater to the growing demand for more nutritious options.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change

Bertinet Bakery sourdough

But – as with any change – there are both supporters and detractors.

“We have a very loyal consumer base which as a small business we value enormously. However, we do recognise that not everyone likes the changes to their favourite sourdough,”​ said Tom Molnar, cofounder and CEO of Bread Holdings, parent of Bertinet Bakery, along with Gail’s and The Bread Factory.

According to media reports, the online retailer’s website was flooded with derogatory comments, purporting the new loaf ‘resembles cardboard’ and many giving it a one-star review. The brand has also come under fire on Twitter and Waitrose’s website.

While this type of retaliation would typically trigger an instant return to what is known and loved by consumers, Bertinet is using the heated debate to entice even more discussion, addressing the ‘sour’ reviews in an open letter to “bring better quality bread back to British tables”.

Central is the burning question: Why change the recipe?

“There's only ever one good reason to change the recipe – to make the bread better … but we recognise leading change is never without risk and we’re facing into it,”​ said Molner.

“We hope that by explaining the changes and why we made them, consumers can make their own more informed decisions about their bread choices and try our new White Sliced Sourdough for themselves.

“We’re leading on these changes with the very best of intentions – to offer a better-quality bread and a different choice for British bread buyers.”

Back to the future

According to Bertinet – which was founded by acclaimed baker Richard Bertinet who exited the business when it was acquired by Bread Holdings 2017 – the revised White Sourdough recipe was inspired by white bread made in the 1800s, long before the introduction of processed refined white flour widely used in commercial loaves today.

Using a melange of less refined flours from heritage grains, the sourdough still contains only flour, water and sea salt, but is now higher in fibre and sports “a more balanced flavour”.

Still your premium option

The bakery is quick to reassure consumers the recipe retains the loaf’s premium standing. In fact, contrary to claims around cost-savings, “the more diverse heritage grains in the new recipe are actually more premium in price but no extra costs have been passed onto consumers.”

The open letter features as a full page campaign – created by Suffolk-based strategic agency Ourselves – responding to the speculation surrounding the change, by highlighting what real bread should be versus the so-called ‘sourfaux’ loaves​ that contain additives and improvers.

Bertinet 1

In summary:

  • White bread can be so much more than just white.
  • Whole grains have been linked to improved health.
  • This blend supports microbiome health and good agricultural practices.
  • Emmer, spelt and barley are woven into English agri-culture.
  • Every part of the grain is used and no resources used to grow it are wasted.
  • They are also higher in nutrients and fibre, and is easier to digest.
  • The return to craft baking unlocks more complex flavours in every loaf, along with increased freshness.
  • Ultimately, “we have made a different white – with more of everything: more care, more craft, more nutrition”.

Walking the talk

A proud supporter of the Real Bread Campaign,​ Bertinet is leading the change in bread and aims to use the campaign to inform Brits on how nutritious bread can really be.

But the real stamp of its conviction comes with the invitation to consumers to try the new recipe for themselves – free of charge.

The new-look range sliced sourdough loaves are available from Ocado and in Waitrose stores across the UK.

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