Food snobs are now looking the other way: the much-maligned sliced white bread is making a comeback as the cost-of-living crisis takes center stage with shoppers.
After producing sourdough breads of varying quality during lockdowns, Brits are falling in love with soft sliced white bread all over again. According to Waitrose, sales have increased by 17% over the past year.
Experts said the rise was part of a wider resurgence in unpretentious, no-frills cooking at a time when rising costs are putting pressure on household budgets. According to John Lewis’ annual report “How We Buy, Live and Look,” sales of toasters and deep fryers increased 63% and 36% respectively during the year.
The report also revealed that consumers are leaving the pandemic behind, with lockdown-related purchases all losing popularity. Sales of puzzles fell 68%, while comfort bras fell 33%.
Jeans sales jumped
Sales of loungewear velor tracksuits fell by half, while sales of boyfriend jeans jumped 85% as people ventured out of their homes again. The wall desks were removed from sale altogether as “we got our homes back and left the desk in the office”.
John Lewis said: “This year we have seen a sea change in buying behavior. Customers appreciated the return of travel, part-time office work and in-store shopping.
Bread box sales also plummeted by 42% as Britons put their baking skills on hiatus, returned to the office and started buying lunch sandwiches instead.
Richard Bainbridge, chef and owner of Benedicts restaurant in Norwich, said: “We all have bleeding gums from sourdough so now we need something sweeter.”
He said consumers are increasingly looking for a whiff of nostalgia to feel “warm and secure” during tough economic times. He added a prawn cocktail starter to his restaurant’s menu “that always puts a smile on the face of customers,” he said.
It’s a sentiment that intrigues our continental cousins. Raymond Blanc, the Michelin-starred French chef, weighed in earlier this year. He urged Britons to ‘start making their own sourdough or focaccia – because sliced white bread is a stain on Britain’s food heritage’.
He said he was “frightened” by the breads. “It is made in factories and the vitamins are added synthetically. And the flavor? No flavor! It’s just plain bad food.
British artisan bakers have also spoken out vehemently against this so-called “fake bread”.
Speed up the cooking process
Yet UK shoppers spent £876m on loaves in 2021, according to figures compiled by market research agency Mintel. He said 62% of shoppers buy sliced white bread.
Breads first appeared in Britain in 1937, when the first slicing and wrapping machine was installed at Wonderloaf Bakery in Tottenham, North London.
Sliced bread evolved into its current form through the Chorleywood process, which was introduced in the 1960s. This helped speed up the baking process. Bread made in this way contains additives and processing agents, and the fermentation process can be reduced to 3.5 hours.
Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign said: ‘We encourage anyone who still has some choice about how they spend their money to choose real bread from a local bakery or, if they have an oven and have the time and money to use it to bake their own bread.
“In the current crisis, we know that far too many people actually need to find ways to save money. This could include buying breads that are cheaper at the checkout than real bread from a baker local.
“Unfortunately, there could be hidden longer-term costs to this short-term economy, whether that’s a loss to a local economy and a skilled job market, or perhaps even in terms of poor dietary health.
White bread sales soar as shoppers run out of dough