Great value in every slice

South African bread offers consumers good all-round value: it is not only an affordable staple available in multiple varieties, but also has many health benefits.

Lorraine Bezuidenhout, bakery business director Anchor Yeast, says since 2009, most bread has been fortified with a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, iron and zinc. These supplements are important from a public health perspective. Last year, bread manufacturers also reduced the amount of salt added to their loaves.

‘Bread is now required, under legislation restricting the salt content of many foods, to have a reduced sodium content. This is significant, given that the average salt intake in South African adults is 8.6g/day – well above the World Health Organization’s recommended 5g/day. Legislation ensures bread remains an important staple by providing vital vitamins and minerals, without negatively adding to South Africans’ overall sodium intake,’ says Bezuidenhout. She adds that bread still contains salt, just less than before.

In recent years, retailers and bakeries have added significantly to the category by offering consumers many different types of breads to suit not only varying budgets, but different tastes and specific dietary requirements. This has further cemented bread’s position as a much-loved household staple.

Despite these positive strides, and the fact that bread is one of the five most commonly consumed foods bought by eight out of 10 South African households, many consumers don’t realise their regular loaf of bread has so much value to offer.

This is just one of the findings coming out of a recent review of the local bread industry by well-known dietician Jane Badham, commissioned by Anchor Yeast. ‘South Africans love their bread,’ she enthuses. ‘In 2008, 2 800 million loaves of bread were sold in South Africa. This equates to the consumption of approximately 62 loaves per person that year, or three slices of bread per person per day. Many South Africans don’t realise exactly what they’re getting from their everyday sandwiches, especially when it comes to nutrition. Incorporating bread is part of a balanced, healthy diet,’ she explains.

Badham’s review found that bread contributed to South Africans meeting their daily nutrient needs. It also acts as a vehicle to improve diversity in people’s diets through the multitude of toppings and fillings it could be paired with. She also notes that bread played a role in achieving two of the 11 South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines.

This is critical, given that poverty precludes so many South Africans from eating healthily. ‘A survey found that some 13.3 per cent or 2.2 million households had to skip a meal in the last 12 months. One fifth of households did not have enough money to buy food. Looking at the increase in the cost of the food basket, it’s not hard to see why. A healthy diet remains largely unachievable for many South Africans,’ Badham adds.

Although the cost of bread has risen accordingly, Badham’s review shows that it remains a competitively priced starch. Based on the serving size listed on the packaging by the manufacturer, which might differ from what consumers eat or what dietitians recommend, regular brown and white bread are priced second after uncooked rice. There is a 29c differential per serving. It is almost the same price as maize meal (mealie meal being 5c more expensive per serving); and is significantly less expensive than pasta, with a R1.68 differential.

These findings are important, given that recent SA National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES) data indicates that price is the main driver behind food choices. With bread having so much to offer, it is a sound food choice indeed.