Is white bread toast?

(L) Zoe Barczyk and Tracey Booth (R)

Zoe Barczyk can’t remember the last time she bought white bread – and she’s not alone.

Lincoln University researchers say the days of the white slice may be over, as growing health consciousness drives more consumers to buy grain loaves, or avoid bread completely.

For the Edgeware student, her go-to loaves of choice are a Ploughman’s Rye, or Vogel’s – partly for the health benefits, and partly because she prefers the taste.

“Buying white bread wouldn’t even cross my mind anymore,” she said.

A survey of shoppers in supermarkets by Lincoln lecturers Sue Trafford and Sharon Forbes found about half thought white bread was unhealthy.

Of the shoppers surveyed, 80 per cent perceived multigrain breads to be healthier than other options.

It found 23 per cent of shoppers bought white bread, and 77 non-white.

That was a turnaround from the numbers almost 40 years ago, when a 1978 survey of shoppers found 89 per cent bought white bread.

Supermarket scanner data from across New Zealand showed sales of white bread fell four per cent last year, while non-white bread sales rose 1.6 per cent.

But white bread still has its loyal supporters. Parklands wedding celebrant Tracey Booth said she often bought 10 loaves of white bread in a week.

She said it was devoured by her three boys, aged seven, 14 and 16.

“It’s the only stuff the kids will eat,” she said.

If it was part of a balanced diet, she didn’t have any concerns about bread, she said.

“So many people are gluten-free these days, I think bread’s been given a bad name,” she said.

Dr Forbes said a lot of fad diets pushed messages that carbohydrates were unhealthy, but they did not tell the whole story.

“I think the nutritionists need to speak up a lot louder, because there are a lot of things in bread, even in white bread, that we really need in our diets, like fibre and folic acid.”

She said bread consumption could also be reducing due to the variety of products available for breakfast or lunch, such as cereals, smoothies, sushi, salads and fast food.

The survey was carried out at supermarkets across Christchurch early this year, and included responses from 141 shoppers.

Dr Forbes said a student involved in the study, Emma Boase, planned to carry on the research in the United States as she studied for her master’s degree at a university in Missouri.

FAST FACTS:

Christchurch survey findings:

•23 per cent of shoppers buying bread purchased white loaves

•77 per cent bought non-white bread

•50 per cent bought more than one type of bread

•80 per cent believed multigrain loaves were healthier

Last year, across New Zealand supermarkets:

•Sales of white loaves dropped 4 per cent

•Sales on non-white loaves rose 1.6 per cent

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