It's panned by dieters, but we just can't do without our daily bread
IRISH people still love their daily bread, with many eating it three times a day despite feeling guilty about it.
New research shows most of us can't imagine life without bread despite its "vilification" by celebrity diets, which have us worrying about its impact on our health.
Bread and bakery sales have risen by 2pc this year, and we now fork out €393m a year on bread and pastries, or over half-a-billion euro if you throw in cakes as well, the report for Bord Bia shows.
But despite these strong sales, the anti-carb message has got through to consumers who often have an overly negative views of white bread in particular, it found.
The report criticised pseudo-science which had resulted in "strong vilification of white bread in particular based on 'pop science', word of mouth and fad celebrity diets mostly".
Bakery companies will be urged to fight back against the negative messages around bread at a Bord Bia event today and present a "unified industry voice to push back on the overly negative portrayal of bread in the consumer's mind".
"There are few 'safe havens' to consume bread in people's daily routine without feeling guilty and overly cautious. Bread as a category needs to give 'permission' to people to eat bread without these feelings of remorse," the report said.
It shows that despite the rise of wraps, baps and ciabattas, it's still the sliced pan which takes pride of place in Irish kitchens as that's the bread chosen by seven out of 10 people – though often it's seen as a dull but necessary purchase.
Morning goods such as freshly baked bread and Danish pastries have seen growth of over 6pc, as many of us clearly succumb to that tempting in-store aroma.
However, the sandwich clearly still reigns supreme, with a whopping 82pc of us eating bread at lunchtime, while 71pc eat baked goods for breakfast and 42pc eat yet more bread for dinner.
It noted that shoppers were looking for ways to mitigate the perceived negative effects of too much white bread with sales of gluten-free food soaring by 400pc in the last four years.
But while one-in-four shoppers now buy gluten-free products, only a minority of these have any intolerance to it, showing the confusion and misunderstanding among consumers, the report noted.
Our love-hate relationship with bread is shown by the fact that 57pc of us can't imagine life without it, while a similar number feel guilty about eating white bread.
Waste is also a big issue with shoppers buying bread, and many would welcome better packaging that helped keep bread fresher longer, it noted.
The Bord Bia report is based on a survey of 2,000 consumers in Ireland and the UK and sales figures from Kantar World-panel.