The ASA has recently issued an interesting ruling about the use of terms like ‘rustic’, ‘artisan’ and ‘traditional’ with regard to food.

The complaints ‘arose’ in the context of three web pages and an Instagram post for Hovis.  They included phrases such as “rustic white bloomer”, “traditional starter dough”, “authentic Granary finish” and “artisanal-inspired bread”.

The Real Bread Campaign (Sustain), who understood the bread was produced using automated industrial techniques, and that it included artificial preservatives, challenged whether the claims could be substantiated.

The ASA did not uphold the complaints.

Use your loaf

The ASA considered that because the Hovis brand was well known, the ads appeared on their own website and Instagram page, and the products were shown in plastic packaging, consumers would understand that the products had been produced on an industrial scale. As such, it was probable that they contained some additional ingredients and processes to those used in handmade breads.

The ASA pointed out that the term “traditional” in the ads was used in a limited context when referring to the starter dough that was used in the breads. It was not a wider claim that the breads had been made using only traditional processes or ingredients. 

It also considered that the term “authentic” was used in a limited context when referring to the bloomer shape of the bread. The ASA also considered that when the term “authentic” was made in relation to the Rustic Granary Bloomer, it was made in a specific context about the finish of the bread.

Regarding the term “rustic”, the ASA noted that it meant simple and often rough in appearance, and typical of the countryside. In addition, the processes and ingredients used to make the breads were simpler than other mass-produced bread products and would result in loaves of bread that had a less uniformed appearance. 

Because consumers would be aware that the breads had been mass-produced, the ASA considered that the claims were not misleading.

Buttering up the ASA

A fourth ad included the claim “Hovis has launched a new artisanal-inspired bread…”. The ASA took the view that consumers would understand the reference to “artisanal-inspired bread”, to mean that the breads were premium products that were in the style of an artisan bread, in part because of its taste and shape, rather than having been made using the same ingredients and processes as handmade bread. It therefore concluded that the claim “artisanal-inspired bread” was not misleading.

Three of the ads included the claim “no artificial preservatives”. The ASA considered that consumers would understand that claim to mean that the advertised products did not contain any artificial preservatives.

It understood that preservatives were a type of additive and were defined in the Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008, as a substance which prolonged the shelf-life of foods by protecting them against deterioration caused by micro-organisms and/or which protected against growth of pathogenic micro-organisms. Neither E472e (DATEM) nor E300 (ascorbic acid) were classified as a preservative under that legislation.

The list of ingredients for all three products listed E472e and E300 and stated that these were an emulsifier and flour treatment agent, respectively. Emulsifiers were defined in the Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 as substances which made it possible to form or maintain a homogenous mixture of two or more immiscible phases such as oil and water in a foodstuff. Flour treatment agents were substances, other than emulsifiers, which were added to flour or dough to improve its baking quality. Therefore, whilst E472e and E300 were additives, they were not preservatives.


As for the other claims, the ASA considered that consumers would understand that the products had been produced on an industrial scale and therefore probably contained some additional ingredients other than the basic ingredients required to make bread. Where the claim appeared in the ads, the full list of ingredients which stated “Emulsifier: E472e, Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid” was clearly visible. Therefore, consumers could clearly see all the ingredients in the products, including that there were additives, but that these had designations other than preservative.

Gluten intolerant… on the contrary?

As a result, because the breads did not contain any preservatives and the lists of ingredients were presented clearly alongside the claim which made clear that they contained other additives, the ASA concluded that the claim “no artificial preservatives” was not misleading and did not breach the CAP Code.

Spreading the love

The rulings are an interesting illustration of how an advertiser can use terms to make bread or other foodstuffs sound less ”industrial” than they are. Some might say it also shows the ASA in an uncharacteristically generous and accommodating mood, given their sometimes overly literal approach. 

Some might even say this was a ‘drop the marmalade’ moment, as Hovis could so easily have been toast!


Link: Hovis Ltd - ASA | CAP