ASA tells Pret to forget 'natural' food claims

Pret A Manger has been served with a ban by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Pret A Manger has been served with a ban by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), after ads displayed on the bakery chain’s Facebook and website pages were found to be misleading.

The ASA told Pret that the digital ads must not appear again in their current form after it scolded the brand for claiming its products were ‘good natural food’, despite the use of artificial additives. The watchdog ruled on three separate Pret ads after receiving a complaint in December from Sustain, a charity which promotes sustainable agriculture and animal welfare.

Pret’s website claimed: ‘Our sandwiches, salads and baguettes are made using fresh, natural ingredients,’ and that ‘Pret creates handmade natural food.’ Similarly, statements on the chain’s Facebook page claimed that the company was founded to make ‘…proper sandwiches avoiding the obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives common to so much of the 'prepared' and 'fast' food on the market’.

The ASA took issue with use of the word ‘natural’, noting that Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidance on use of the term states that an ingredient should only be classed as ‘natural’ if it has not been chemically altered or produced using new technologies. The watchdog said that since "some products contained artificial additives", use of the term ‘natural’ was misleading.

Pret A Manger has been told by the ASA that it must “not claim or imply that its food was ‘natural’, unless its products and ingredients were in line with consumer expectations of the term ‘natural.’”

Clare Clough, food and coffee director at Pret A Manger, told The Drum: “Since day one, Pret has been on a mission to create handmade, natural food, avoiding obscure chemicals and preservatives. Our teams freshly prepare our food every day in our on-site kitchens and at the end of each day our unsold food is donated to homeless charities.

“Today, the ASA has upheld in part a complaint about our use of the word natural in two instances online. We do, of course, take on board the views of the ASA and have already made the requested changes. We cherish the relationship we have with our customers. We believe we represent Pret’s food honestly and we always welcome feedback.”

The watchdog declined to uphold a complaint regarding a post on Pret’s Flickr page which promoted the freshness of the brand’s baked goods.

The ASA has been proactive in policing the claims of food brands and use of the term ‘natural’. Snack brand Go Ahead was banned last month after poster ads claimed its products were ‘Crammed with 100% natural ingredients.’

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