Loaf tanning salons: Major UK retailer fingered for allegedly distorting ‘freshly baked’ claims

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Just how important do consumers consider 'freshly baked from scratch' to be? Pic: GettyImages/benidio
Just how important do consumers consider 'freshly baked from scratch' to be? Pic: GettyImages/benidio

Related tags Real bread campaign Marketing Consumer protection Bread instore bakery category

The Real Bread Campaign has submitted a trading standards complaint that accuses Lidl of purportedly misleading consumers. It might not be the only one ...

The UK consumer watchdog has accused Lidl of breaching consumer protection regulations by using claims like ‘freshly made every day’ and ‘freshly baked bread’.

It claims Tesco is using these marketing campaigns at stores where no bread is freshly baked from scratch onsite. In fact, it contends many of Lidl’s outlets receive pre-baked goods, which are then second baked to achieve the appealing golden brown, crispier crust.

Compounding this, the Campaign asserts that under this model, the retail group has allegedly not utilized professional bakery expertise since 1968.

Alongside bread products, pastries, too, could be made elsewhere and receive their first baking in a Tesco store, however this “is still not what the average consumer would understand ‘freshly baked’ to mean,” asserts Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young.

As such, the charity that falls within the Sustain umbrella is calling out the retailer for using marketing that is ‘misleading and breaches consumer protection regulations’.

“Over a number of years, Tesco has been shutting down instore bakeries and making skilled baker roles redundant, replacing fresh bread making with staff members loading premade products into loaf tanning salons,” said Young.

“We’re saddened by the company’s audacity in telling shoppers that things are being expertly, freshly baked and amazed that they’ve been allowed to continue making such claims.”

Et tu?

Rye bread knife Getty HDesert
Pic: GettyImages/HDesert

Along similar veins, Sainsbury’s recently announced it was scrapping the ‘scratch baking’ concept from its instore bakeries.

Although the retailer didn’t disclose how many stores or bakery staff would be affected, it did say it would be adopting the widely used ‘bake-off model’, under which stores receive part-baked or frozen goods to be finished baking instore.

The move falls under the retailer’s New Level streamlining strategy that could see as many as 1,500 jobs across the business made redundant.

A spokesperson for the retailer said the move would “allow us to offer customers the best quality instore bakery products at great value. Our bakery items are also clearly labelled in line with legislation and trading standards.”

Again, however, the Real Bread Campaign says Sainsbury’s ongoing marketing “claims are increasingly unrepresentative of the company’s instore bakeries in general”.

The growing popularity of bake off (and we’re not talking GBBO)

The bake off model is increasingly being adopted by retailers across the UK for its ease and flexibility, advantages in freshness, brand differentiation and cost efficiencies.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s aren’t the only two to have adopted the concept and other giants like Aldi, Lidl, Co-op and Marks & Spencer have followed suit within most – if not all – of their outlets. Several, however, have maintained instore bakeries to complement their premium food offerings.

Back in June 2021, the Real Bread Campaign filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regarding Co-op’s ‘freshly baked’ sourdough baguette, which the Campaign asserted is part-baked offsite by a third party and then finished instore.

In response, a Co-op spokesperson said, “As a convenience retailer, we pride ourselves on offering an affordable and great quality instore bakery range for our member owners and customers – including our much-loved Irresistible sourdough baguette, which is freshly prepared and baked by trained colleagues across our stores every day.”

For its part, Tesco contested the Campaign’s claims that it used terminology like ‘fresh’ or ‘freshly baked’ group wide.

The supermarket giant says 400 of its larger stores actually contain bakeries that makes products from scratch but refrains from utilizing such marketing terms for those that use frozen or part-baked goods.

“We’re proud of our colleagues who freshly bake great quality, affordable bread in hundreds of our stores – and have done so since we opened our first instore bakery in 1968,” said a spokesperson.

“In some stores where we don’t have the space to bake everything from scratch, we work closely with our bakery suppliers who prepare dough for us that trained colleagues bake every day in store.

“The signage we use in each individual store reflects the different ways we prepare bread, and our approach has been agreed with our Trading Standards Primary Authority.”

Freshly baked vs re-baked

Buns in the oven Pic Getty Images Claudiad
Pic: GettyImages/Claudiad

FSA guidance states terms such as ‘freshly baked’, ‘baked instore’ and ‘oven fresh’ could mislead consumers into believing they are being offered products that have been freshly produced onsite from basic raw materials.

Such marketing terms don’t align with the consumers’ typical expectations of ‘freshly baked’. Worse still, claims the Campaign, it allows the bigger manufacturers to profiteer from the time-honored practice that is the bread-and-butter of small, independent, local bakeries.

“These small businesses create well-paid jobs and help to keep money circulating in local economies, offer training and experience that enables people to become true expert bakers,” said Young.

“What we find problematic is Tesco marketing these cheaply mass-produced items in ways that are likely to lead the average consumer to believe they are getting substantively different products made by fundamentally different means.”

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