Mad about better-for-you bread

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

For the love of bread. Pic: GettyImages
For the love of bread. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Bread better for you Superloaf Modern Baker Equii Sourhouse sourdough Real bread campaign Warburtons

The UK Government backs the Superloaf entrepreneur to help tackle obesity problem; Equii expands its portfolio to allow consumers to have ‘the best of both worlds’; Sourhouse encourages home bakers ‘to sourdough’; Real Bread Campaign wants to put some sourdough myths to bed; and Warburtons enlists Samuel L Jackson.

Superloaf maker Modern Baker has received a £450,000 financial grant from the UK Government to apply the same approach towards formulating other UPFs.

The company’s first commercial loaf - dubbed Superloaf 2.0 - made its debut in 2021, promising to ‘democratise healthy baking for the common good’. Six years of intensive R&D by inventor Melissa Sharp resulted in ‘the healthiest loaf ever made’, being high in omega-3 to support the body’s immune system and digestive health.

The six-strong artisanal range rolled out in in Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic, Ocado, Selfridges and independents at an RRP of up to £6.

Earlier this year, Modern Baker sealed a deal with Hovis Marks & Spencer to launch a mass-production version of its gut healthy bread. The 500g loaves are co-manufactured and co-packaged by Hovis - using the high-speed Chorleywood method - and are available in M&S stores for an RRP of £2.30.

“Superloaf 5.0 is the breakthrough we always hoped for - made on the high-speed that run the bread industry world-wide, yet packed with healthy, concentrated, optimised nutrients (all clean label) that slow blood glucose (and fructose) absorption, optimise gut microbiome outputs and more,”​ said Leo Campbell, cofounder of parent company Modern Baker.

(The 2.0 artisanal range - which currently clocks up around £1m in retail sales - will remain on shelves; 3.0 - the company’s first foray into the mass-market - will be withdrawn from Amazon Fresh; and 4.0 - developed for instore bakery - is yet to come to market.)


Now, Sharp and Campbell are going back to the drawing board to apply the same approach to formulating other UPFs - pastries, breakfast cereals and pasta, among others - thanks to a £450,000 grant from Innovate UK - the UK’s national innovation agency that helps producers turn ideas into commercially successful products.

Superloaf has shown that carb-based UPFs can be re-engineered ‘for the common good’ by combining the economic and format advantages of being produced at scale with Modern’s Baker’s Alt-Nutrition concept, principally from prebiotic plant fibres, bioactive plant compounds and targeted fermentation.

The most recent grant was awarded as part of the Better Food for All: Innovation for improved nutrition funding competition and ramps up the company’s total investment support to £4m to-date.

Unhealthy UPFs make up nearly 60% of UK’s calorie intake, ramping up the runaway obesity crisis that is placing immense strain on the country national health system (NHS).

Aiming to reframe UPFs as positive nutrition, Modern Baker’s research has been focused on replicating the nutrient profile found in a fruit, veg and whole grain diet from natural plant sources, along with developing the processes required to integrate it into processed foods.

It’s this biochemical interplay between all the fermented ingredients that turn Superloaf into a nutritional powerhouse, but most importantly, a real cause for optimism that the problem with UPFs can be tackled via a process of reformulation within the processed food industry, said the company.

The impact of reformulation: producer’s nightmare or brand boost?

Crazy scientist reformulation Getty

To find out more about the challenges in producing trickier better-for-you formulations that do not compromise on indulgence, Bakery&Snacks is tapping some of the best minds the sector has to offer to explore what reformulation means for the bakery and snacks sectors.

  • Does reformulation mean indulgence is going out the window?
  • Consumers want to healthier foods, yet they don’t necessarily want these items to taste healthier: less sugary, salty or rich.  Do you think the understanding of reformulation differs between industry and consumers?
  • Does the reformulation concept also cover fortification?
  • How can bakery and snack producers seize the opportunities created by this movement and get an even bigger share of the market?

This free-to-attend webinar​ is one not to be missed and take places on Thursday, 28 September 2022 at 3:00 BST/4pm CET/9am CT. If you can’t make the live event, register anyway. The webinar will be made available to registrants after the broadcast date as an on-demand presentation.

“Bread was just the beginning,”​ said Sharp.

“Receiving our sixth grant in a row from Innovate UK is tremendously encouraging, and a brilliant validation of Alt-Nutrition staples that benefit digestive and gut health, potentially ushering in a new era of mass-produced foods that are nutritious and have a net positive impact on wellbeing and the planet.

“Now we’ve cracked bread - by far the hardest staple - we feel there’s no limit to where we can go from here, and we’re incredibly humbled by the support from Innovate UK, which has played a vital role in our journey.”

New bread options


Equii has expanded its better-for-you bread portfolio to allow consumers to have ‘the best of both worlds’ - that is, nutrition and flavour.

The California-based food technology startup is focused on making breads that are high in plant-based complete protein (10g per slice) and low in carbs. Each slice is also packed with all nine essential amino acids.

Founded in 2021 by food scientists Monica Bhatia, PhD, Baljit Ghotra, PhD, and Chef Sebastian Canonne, Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF), the company - originally known as Cella Farms - created a proprietary approach for discovering nutritious sources of microbial proteins that are used to ferment grains and produce high-protein grain flours, which have three-to-six times more protein and approximately half as many carbohydrates as regular flour.

In 2022, Equii received $6m in seed funding from Khosla Ventures - bringing its total funding to-date to $8m from investors like kdT Ventures, 1derlife Partners, Accelr8 Partners and Axial Ventures, among others.

The added investment has allowed the standout innovator to ramp up its portfolio, to include a plain and multigrain bread, with plans for other types of bread - buns, bagels and rolls, along with flour - on the drawing board.

“Equii’s classification as a complete protein source is a game changer,”​ said the company.

“It provides consumers with a convenient and delicious way to meet their protein needs while ensuring they get all the essential amino acids their bodies need. Whether you’re an athlete looking to fuel your performance or a health-conscious consumer looking for a nutritious option, Equii has you covered.”

A sourdough world

sourdough bread EmiliaU
Pic: GettyImages

Sourdough is the beating heart of the artisan bread revolution, and US-based Sourhouse is on a mission to make sure more people can participate.

The company was launched in 2021 by Erik Fabian and Jennifer Yoko Olson with a shared vision of a world where people gather daily to share homemade sourdough bread and other fermented foods.

The company’s core business is creating and selling baking tools, such as Goldie. The duo invented the first countertop warming device that provides a safe home for sourdough starters with the help of 1,200+ baker-backers on Kickstarter and Indiegogo in April 2022.

Goldie provides just enough warmth to keep a sourdough starter consistently in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of 24-28ºC (75-82ºF): when it is the most active and healthy.

It features gentle heat to warm a starter without the risk of overheating it; a small footprint; an auto-warming on/off switch; a borosilicate glass cloche (so bakers can see their starter); a three-zone thermometer that helps bakers understand the starter’s behaviour and anticipate when to bake; and a Sourhouse Cooling Puck to cool down the starter in a room too hot to prepare it for baking. Goldie is built with energy efficiency in mind, is food-safe, water resistant and just needs a damp sponge to clean.

Another way in which Sourhouse is encouraging American and Canadian bakers ‘to sourdough’ is by giving away free sourdough starter. The project is scaling up slowly with the goal to give away 5,000 starters by the end of 2024.

In addition, Sourhouse invited bakers to contribute to its Sourhouse Community Cookbook, a crowd-sourced free-to-download cookbook filled with recipes, tips and tricks.

In 2021, Sourhouse launched Sourdough Hope, a campaign to find America’s ‘most hopeful sourdough baking story’. The world was reeling under the blow of the COVID pandemic, with many turning to baking sourdough to cope with uncertainty, boredom and isolation. Five inspiring bakers who shared their most intimate sourdough moments received a raft of prizes from brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Challenger Breadwear, Thermoworks, Full Proof Baking and Jovial Foods.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

Sourdough starter bydesignvisuals
Pic: GettyImages

Following its annual Sourdough September campaign, the Real Bread Campaign noted a rise in claims within the sourdough community.

“We at the Real Bread Campaign love all Real Bread and the people behind its rise. During September, we focus on celebrating genuine sourdough bread in particular,” ​said Campaign coordinator Chris Young.

“We are, however, careful to ensure that our passion doesn’t get the better of us when explaining why we think that sourdough bread is so great.”

The most oft-seen claims include being more nutritious: higher in fibre and a good source of pre- and probiotics; better digestibility: lower in gluten, glycaemic index (GI) and FODMAPs; and, of course, is additive and yeast-free.

However, emphasised Young, notes not all loaves are created equal.

  • Every sourdough starter - and bread made from it - is different. The species and strains of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria in each sourdough starter culture is unique.
  • The benefits reported by a study carried out using a starter of a particular flour at X hydration, containing lactic acid bacterium Y and yeast Z, fermented for A minutes at B degrees might not necessarily apply to other sourdough starter cultures. Many scientific studies are carried out on animals or in vitro (test tubes, petri dishes, etc), so the benefits for human beings may differ.
  • Even if conclusive, results of a single study - particularly one involving only tens or even hundreds of participants - can’t necessarily be extrapolated to apply to all sourdough bread made in exactly the same way as used in the experiment.
  • What is true for you might not be for someone else. The very real reaction of your body to eating a slice from a loaf might differ to that of another person eating a slice from the same loaf.
  • The Great Britian Nutrition and Health Claims Register includes none specific to sourdough fermentation, meaning it’s not legal to make a nutrition or health claim that isn't on the register.

On 20 September 2023, the Campaign again chased Mark Spencer, UK Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries in calling for an Honest Crust Act of improved composition, labelling and marketing legislation.

Real Bread Campaign's better bred bread

Smelling sourdough Getty
  • The salt level should be no more than 1% and ideally at or below 0.85%, in line with the UK Government’s salt reduction targets for bread.
  • Plain bread should be made without the use of added fat or added sugars. This provision does not apply to any enriched breads (such as brioche, focaccia, croissants etc.) served.
  • A preference for wholemeal bread, or bread made with at least 50% wholemeal flour.
  • A preference for bread produced from wheat that has been grown and milled as locally as possible to the point of serving.
  • Requirement for the bread to be certified organic.
  • Specification of types of Real Bread that are culturally appropriate to the diners.
  • Requiring that some or all of the bread be genuine sourdough.

Ten years ago, Real Bread Campaign partnered with Food for Life to award points to caterers serving Real Bread (made inhouse or bought in) towards their Food For Life Served Here Award and Food for Life Schools Awards.

The campaign is pushing for additive-free bread to be part of meals that are subsidised, or even free at point of service. The campaign has flourished over the past decade, with many thousands of schoolkids, hospital patients and staff members, care home residents and others tucking into bread that is made without chemical raising agents and other additives.

“We see the importance and value in Real Bread being made from a small list of ingredients and we are proud to have it as part of our Silver and Gold Food for Life Served Here Awards,”​ said Sophie Pritchard, business development manager for Food for Life.

Added Young, “It’s great to see so many cooks, chefs and caterers show leadership around a staple of the diet by ditching additive-laden, ultra-processed industrial loaf products, in favour of delicious, nutritious Real Bread.

“We look forward to seeing even more people being given the chance to choose Real Bread over the next ten years and beyond.”

The Real Bread Campaign will mark the 15th​ anniversary in November, while 2023 is the 50th​ anniversary of organic certification in the UK.

Samuel L Jackson is mad about Warburtons

Samuel L Jackson

The UK’s largest bakery brand enlisted the Hollywood actor to co-star alongside bakery body Jonathan Warburton in its latest TV campaign.

‘Mad About The Bread’ is the latest addition to Warburtons’ line up of now-iconic storytelling adverts, which have featured A-List celebrities like George Clooney, Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone.

The ad celebrates Warburtons’ dedication to making the best quality loaf, giving viewers a glimpse of the lengths the bakery manufacturer will go to test for softness, butter-ability and bounce-back-ability.

“Quality is truly at the heart of our 147-year-old business and this new ad is a real celebration of that passion,”​ said Warburton.

“Inviting the big-screen hero of Samuel L. Jackson into the business was a uniquely memorable experience, and we hope to bring some light-hearted humour to viewers at home - while reminding the nation that our Toastie truly offers our customers the best of the best.”

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