A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



New Series Regional G.4

An Inquiry carried out by the Wartime Social Survey for the Ministry of Food

Interviewing: 18th January to 8th February, 1943

A general sample of 2654 men and women, selected in representative proportions from different regions and occupation groups was interviewed. The purpose of this inquiry was to investigate public attitudes towards National Wheatmeal, and to see how the proportions who liked and disliked it after eating it for nine months compared with the proportions given by an inquiry carried out in May, 1942, a few weeks after the bread had become generally and compulsorily sold.



The same proportion in February, 1943, as in May, 1942, said they preferred white bread. A lower proportion in February, 1943, than in May, 1942, preferred N.W.B. A higher proportion in February, 1943. than in May, 1942, liked both equally.

Classes A and B were more favourable to N.W.B. than Classes C and D.

The managerial and professional, clerical and distributive groups were more favourable than other occupation groups.

Scotland showed a lower proportion preferring white bread than other groups.

The question asked in the earlier inquiry was: “How do you think the bread the shops are selling now compares with white bread?” The question was phrased in this way as a comparison with white bread made it easier to measure different shades of approval and disapproval, and a scale of attitudes, “Better than white bread", “Like both equally", “Not so good as white bread”. was used.

In the present inquiry the question was put in exactly the same were as in the earlier inquiry.

Results for the two periods were as follows:-

May 1942 % Feb.1943 %
Better than white bread 22.9 14.1
Not so good as white bread 48.5 48.1
Better in some way and worse in others 5.5 6.2
Like both equally 20.6 27.6
Don't know 2.5 4.0
SAMPLE 2008 2654

It will be seen that the proportion saying that they prefer National Wheatmeal has decreased and rather more say that they like both types of bread equally. The proportion giving an unfavourable reply is exactly the same.

Analysis of results by sex and by age groups, as in the earlier inquiry, show no statistically significant differences.

Breakdown by region shows some marked differences.

Scotland North of England Midlands and Wales South S.W and E. Anglia London Total
% % % % % %
Better than white bread 12.6 15.0 14.4 15.1 12.0 14.1
Not so good as white bread 34.5 ± 5.6 59.4 ± 4 47.5 41.5 ± 3.6 51.8 ± 4.4 48.1
Better in some way and worse in others 2.4 3.8 4.7 12.3 4.8 6.2
Like both equally 34.5 19.8 ± 3.3 30.6 ± 3.6 29.2 27.5 27.6
Don't know 16.0 2.0 2.8 1.9 3.9 4.0
SAMPLE 287 601 644 682 440 2654

The proportions preferring National Wheatmeal are similar in all regions however Scotland shows a relatively low and the North of England a high proportion preferring white. The proportion preferring white is also rather low in the Southern region. In the North of England only 20% like both equally.

It is clear that on the whole attitudes are least favourable in the North of England and more favourable in Scotland and in the Southern region. London and the Midlands show not statistically significant differences from the country as a whole.

As in the earlier inquiry analysis by income groups shows the higher income groups more favourable to National Wheatmeal Bread.

In the table given below Classes A and B included housewives in these classes and people in managerial and professional jobs. Classes C and D included housewives in these classes and all other workers.

Classes A and B Classes C and D Total
% % %
Better than white bread 21.5 ± 4.1 12.8 14.1
Not so good as white bread 37.4 ± 4-8 49.9 48.1
Better in some way and worse in others 8.4 5.8 6.2
Like both equally 28.3 27.6 27.6
Don't know 4.4 3.9 4.0
SAMPLE 406 2248 2654

The proportions in the two groups liking both sorts of bread equally about the same, but wide differences are seen in the proportions giving a definite preference. The pattern is the same in the May inquiry.

Some occupation groups show differences.

Heavy Manufacture Light Manufacture Clerical Distributive Managerial and Professional
% % % % % %
Better than white bread 15.4 10.6 ± 3 21.9 ± 5.1 16.4 21.1 ± 8.4 14.1
Not so good as white bread 56.1 ± 7.8 59.2 ± 6.6 39.5 ± 6.4 39.9 ± 6.6 39.5 ± 8.1 48.1
Better in some way and worse in others 1.9 1.6 7.3 6.1 8.4 6.2
Like both equally 25.4 26.3 29.6 32.9 27.5 27.6
Don't know 1.2 2.3 1.7 4.7 3.5 4.0
SAMPLE 162 438 233 213 142 2654

Factory workers have on the whole a less favourable attitude than other groups. Workers in heavy industry showed a higher proportion preferring white in the earlier inquiry. In the present inquiry the result for this group is doubtful, the margin of error being wide. In light industry the preference for white bread is more marked.

As in May, Clerical workers and those in managerial and professional jobs have relatively favourable opinions of National Wheatmeal Bread, and the present inquiry also shows a more favourable attitude in the distributive group.

Housewives, and a group composed of miners, agricultural workers, building and transport workers, show no statistically significant differences from the whole sample.

A high proportion (11.3%) in the retired and unoccupied group answered “don't know, but otherwise there are no significant differences.


Reasons for Preferences

Those who preferred one sort of bread to the other were asked their reasons. Some gave more than one reason and the percentages shown below therefore add to more than 100.

Reasons for preferring White Bread % of those preferring White bread % whole sample
Prefer taste 36.2 17.4
Habit. Can't get used to N.W.B. 7.7 3.7
Looks more appetising 5.5 2.6
More satisfying 6.0 2.9
More digestible. N.W.B. upsets digestion. 17.7 8.5
More nourishing. Better for health. 6.5 3.1
“Suits me better”. Other causes spots, etc. 3.6 1.7
Keeps longer. N.W.B. gets stale. 30.6 14.7
More economical. N.W.B. crumbles. 4.5 2.2
Miscellaneous reasons 1.7 0.8
No reason given 3.1 1.5
SAMPLE 1273 2654

More than a third of those preferring white gave taste as the reason for this, and second in importance is that National Wheatmeal is said to get stale quickly. Digestibility is the consideration next in importance.

Reasons for preferences were not asked in the earlier inquiry, but remarks about the two sorts of bread made spontaneously were recorded. 11.5% complained that National Wheatmeal got stale and dry, and 8.2% said that it upset digestion. These proportions may be compared with 14.7% and 8.5% respectively who gave those reasons in the present inquiry.

Reasons given by those who preferred National Wheatmeal were as follows: -

Reasons for preferring National Wheatmeal % of those preferring N.W.B. % whole sample
Prefer taste 22.5 3.2
Always used to eat brown. N.W.B. similar. 24.3 3.4
More satisfying 11.2 1.6
More nourishing. Better for health. 32.8 4.6
More digestible. 5.1 0.7
“Suits me better”. 4.0 0.6
More roughage 3.2 0.5
Keeps longer than white. 3.7 0.5
Miscellaneous reasons 3.7 0.5
No reason given 9.9 1.4
SAMPLE 375 2654

Taste and brown bread habit are given as reasons by nearly half of those preferring N.W.B., and almost as many give health reasons of various sorts.

However these represent only small proportions of the whole sample, and whilst 8.5% say white is more digestible, less than 1% say that N.W.B. is more digestible. 4.6% say N.W.B. is more nourishing as against 3.1% saying white is more nourishing.

In the earlier inquiry 6.6% said that N.W.B. was more nourishing or easier to digest, and 4.4% said they had always eaten brown bread as against 3.4% in the present inquiry.

The proportions commenting on the taste of the two breads in the different inquiries are not comparable, as in the first inquiry informants were not asked reasons for preference. Remarks such as “I like it", “It is very nice", were noted down. But these were not necessarily given as reasons for preference, and naturally as N.W.B. was new more of those who preferred it than of those who preferred whitebread made comments of this sort. In that inquiry 17% said they liked N.W.B. or that it was “nice", and 10% that they disliked it or that it had an unpleasant flavour.

Region % Type of district %
Scotland 10.8 Urban 86.1
North of England 22.7 Rural 13.9
Midlands and Wales 24.3
South, S.W and E. Anglia 25.6
London 16.6
Occupation Group % SEX %
Housewives 32.6 Men 39.5
Agriculture 4.0 Women 60.5
Mining 2.0
Heavy manufacturing industries Light 6.1 Age
Building and road work 16.5 Under20 5.0
Transport and public services 2.8 20-30 17.5
Clerical 3.6 31-45 38.1
Distributive 8.8 46-65 30.6
Miscellaneous services 8.0 Over65 8.8
Professional 4.1 Housewives and Retired and Unoccupied %
Managerial 2.2 Classes A 5.4
Retired and unoccupied 3.2 Classes B 21.3
6.1 Classes C 39.2
Classes D 34.1

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close