Mathilda Davidson looks at a decision of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on two Iceland frozen bread ads that will be interesting for brands looking to position "premium" or "artisan-style" food products. Has the ASA given carte blanche to brands, associated with industrialised processes, to appropriate the language of traditional, handmade production?
The ASA has given the all clear to an Iceland print ad promising "freshly baked artisan bread straight from your oven". However, the advertising regulator banned a video ad for the retailer's range of frozen cook-at-home breads for misleadingly suggesting the industrially-produced products featured were hand-made and contained fewer ingredients than was actually the case.
The ASA looked at complaints about two ads:
- A print ad in which the text "Frozen brings you freshly baked artisan bread straight from your oven...#PowerofFrozen" was superimposed over an image of loaves of bread.
- An online video ad featuring the Iceland range of frozen bake-at-home breads which included an interview with a baker who was shown preparing dough by hand and baking it in a brick oven. The voiceover contained references to the breads being "freshly baked treats", "baked straight from the freezer", "only us[ing] natural ingredients" and stated "our stone baked bread is made from the best wheat, sourdough, water, salt and an amount of yeast".
The main complainant was The Real Bread Campaign, affiliated to the pressure group Sustain which campaigns for changes to farming and food production practices.
"artisan" (Print ad only)
Surprisingly, the ASA held that Iceland's use of the term "artisan" in the print ad to describe its frozen bread range was not misleading, even though the products are made using automated industrial techniques and include ingredients additional to those used during a hand baking process.
That is despite the dictionary definition of 'artisan', in the context of food and drink, being "made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high quality ingredients" [our emphasis].
The ASA based its reasoning on the fact that Iceland did not claim actually to use any artisan ingredients or processes in its breads and that the Iceland brand is sufficiently well known for consumers to know that their products would be mass produced. In context, the ASA held that "artisan" would be understood to mean "artisan-style" or "premium", rather than as a claim that the products were made using the same ingredients and processes as hand baking.
"freshly baked"... from frozen (both ads)
The ASA also held that Iceland could use the term "freshly baked" to describe products designed to be cooked at home from frozen, in both the print and video ads. The Real Bread Campaign had complained that this was inherently misleading.
However, the ASA disagreed, finding that the "freshly baked" claim was not made about the food production process (which, in context, they thought consumers would understand to be industrial) but about how consumers would prepare the products in their own homes. Consumers would be happy with the concept of a product that was bought frozen but then "freshly baked" at home and so would not be misled by the use of the term to describe cook-from-frozen products.
Depiction of the Baking Process (Video ad only)
Where Iceland fell down was in the presentation of the baking process in the video ad. The video cut from exterior shots of a windmill to an interview with a baker which appeared to be taking place inside the windmill. He was shown mixing and kneading dough by hand and shaping and baking the resulting loaves in the brick oven and commented "we want to go back to the roots of baking".
The ASA accepted that "consumers were likely to appreciate that products available at a large national retailer were likely to be mass-produced". However, the focus on traditional methods of hand production in the visuals in combination with claims about going back to the roots of baking were enough to dispel this understanding and to indicate that "the products in question were instead produced by hand, before being sold for home freezing and baking". As this was not the case, the ASA held it was misleading to depict traditional hand-made production methods in the ad.
Ingredients (Video ad only)
The interview with the baker included the claim "our stone baked bread is made from the best wheat, sourdough, water, salt and an amount of yeast". Particularly in the context of the images of a traditional hand-made production process, the ASA held that this amounted to a claim that the breads contained only the ingredients listed. Voiceover claims that "we want to go back to the roots of baking" and "we only use natural ingredients" reinforced this.
In fact the products did contain additional ingredients and the ASA criticised Iceland for misleadingly implying that the products contained fewer ingredients than was the case.
The ruling reinforces the fact that brands need to keep in mind the overall impression conveyed by their advertising. Images of rustic scenes and production processes which bear no relationship to the actual, industrialised, method of production can easily cross the line and mislead, even if the product has been inspired by traditional methods.
However, the ASA's acceptance that a household name brand can refer to its products as 'artisan' (to mean 'artisan-style') because consumers will know that that brand is unlikely to actually employ artisan methods and therefore will not be misled, is intriguing. Indeed, it is hard to believe that the ASA would have reached a similar conclusion in relation to a product claimed to be (but obviously not) natural or organic. It seems that the ASA has opened a door for advertisers, which they may rush to exploit.