Plain White Bread - © Great Canadian Superstore

Against All Odds: Plain White Bread Making Come-Back

I was first shocked, but later came to understand why plain Sliced Bread is making a serious comeback in the supermarket carts of more folks in the UK and Europe. It’s a multifaceted story without a happy ending – a failure of human nature…

Premium Sliced White Bread - © D'ItalianoThe resurgence in popularity of Sliced White Bread has been aided and abetted
by commercial bakers who have dressed it up with cultural and ‘healthy’
marketing cues. But it’s all essentially, just Sliced Whole Bread…

The Guardian op-ed I came across describing the phenomenon postulates a number of causes for the resurgence in popularity of Plain White Bread. Some are obvious, others are not. All seem related to the COVID crisis, rising food prices, and humanity’s addiction to convenience…

The big picture

The preamble of the story reminds us, Sliced White Bread is officially 94 years old. It’s had its ups and downs in popularity and in approval by health, nutrition and medical types. But throughout it’s life, it has remained the go-to bread for hundreds of millions of ordinary folks across the developed world. Now, it’s apparently making a flash come-back.

Plain White Bread falls squarely in the wheelhouse of recent danger signals about ultra-processed foods. It’s long been vilified as an empty food, full of calories, added sugar, and carbs and bereft of good stuff like vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. About all it has going for it, critics say, is its appealing colour, a comforting soft texture, and an abiding sweetness humans are said to crave.

In fact, bread has been tagged in the UK as a number-one offender as a feeder of excess, added sugar to the masses. Nevertheless, Sales of one leading brand, Waitrose, grew 17 percent last year.

According to The Telegraph, “Brits £876 million on Sliced White Bread in 2021, according to figures compiled by Mintel, the market research agency. It said that 62 per cent of shoppers buy white, sliced bread.”



The cost of food – recently at highs some younger shoppers have never experienced before – folks are massively cutting back on healthier breads. After experimenting with whole grains and multi-grains and so on during the COVID lockdown, the majority of working Brits have gone back to work, outside the home, and have hung up their home-baker’s caps.


It takes hours to make bread from scratch. and the majority no longer have that timer to spare in their daily schedules. The old devil convenience has come back to haunt them. And, in connivance with soaring food prices, he’s tempting folks to take the easy way out: reaching for a loaf of Sliced White. Convenience has been shown to be a major motivator for food choices among younger people since the millennium.


The Guardian story calls Sliced White Bread ‘the bread of childhood: “The sandwiches you ate growing up were probably made with cheap white bread. Imagine if you came home from school and your mum gave you a hunk of artisanal wholewheat sourdough drizzled with olive oil. You’d have a tantrum, wouldn’t you?”

I’ll leave that for you to debate. But the comfort angle must not, the op-ed writer notes, is not to be minimized.


… Which brings us to fundamental needs. The op-ed postulates that folks are fed up with the sorry state of the world and the generalized lack of hope it offers, and looking for something that offers good, old-fashioned, unconditional comfort: “Everything is crap. Nobody can afford anything, we’re all miserable, it’s going to be the worst winter in living memory and things are only going to get worse. It is, without exaggeration, an unimaginable hellscape out there. Right. And what does that have to do with bread? Oh, right, yes. Cheap, processed bread is comforting…”

My take

I agree with the op-ed writer. And I hasten to add one more observation in explanation of the renaissance of Sliced Bread. It goes with anything and everything you might want to toss into a sandwich. While you may go slumming with your bread, I’ll bet that new tastes and preferences developed during the COVID Era have stuck with you. And I’ll bet they frequently demand to express themselves in sandwich form!

~ Maggie J.