A big hit with hungry workers and shoppers, Pret A Manger likes to market itself as an ethical sandwich chain.
But its reputation has been dealt a humiliating blow after it was banned from advertising its food as ‘natural’ – because its bread has too many additives.
The ruling today from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) follows a complaint from the Real Bread Campaign.
Pret A Manger has been banned for advertising its food as ‘natural’, following a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority. It was determined the brand’s bread has too many additives
Pret said the E-numbers were commonly used in other products across the High Street and its bread was ‘cleaner’ than other brands.
But the Real Bread Campaign said consumers were being misled by Pret’s boast that it sold ‘natural’ food.
There is no information on Pret’s sandwich packs, shelf labels or website about the use of E-numbers in its bread.
For example, the ingredients of its tuna and cucumber sandwich are listed in detail, but there is nothing about the bread, which is simply described as ‘granary’.
On its website, the firm says: ‘We combine our pole & line caught skipjack tuna mayo with spring onions, chopped capers, a touch of anchovy paste and a squeeze of lemon.
Paired with sliced cucumbers and just a dab of butter, this is a simple, delicious sandwich.’ While there is no mention of E-numbers in the bread, the sandwich packs carry the word ‘natural’ five times.
The ASA ruling relates to the way Pret markets its food on its website and social media, not on signs in outlets or the labels on packs.
Pret’s Facebook page boasted it offered an alternative to processed fast food, and sold ‘proper sandwiches avoiding the obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives common to so much ‘processed’ and ‘fast’ food’.
The ASA ruling relates to the way Pret markets its food on its website and social media, not on signs in outlets or the labels on packs
On its website, the firm – which became an international success after opening its first sandwich bar in 1986 –had the headline ‘Good Natural Food’ over the statement: ‘Our sandwiches, salads and baguettes etc are made using fresh, natural ingredients.’
However, its bread contains E472e (diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides) to strengthen dough and leave fewer large holes; E471 (mono and diglycerides of fatty acids) to soften the crumb; and E300 (ascorbic acid or Vitamin C).
Pret insisted it that had not asserted it used only natural ingredients or that its food was free of additives and preservatives.
But the ASA said: ‘Consumers were likely to interpret those claims to mean Pret A Manger’s foods were ‘natural’ as they did not contain obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives. Because some foods contained E-numbers… those foods did not constitute natural foods.’
Clare Clough, from Pret, said: ‘Pret has been on a mission to create handmade, natural food. We have already made the requested changes.’