Asda has cut artificial colours and flavours from all of its 9,000 own-label products.

Asda’s bakery director Huw Edwards told British Baker that the initiative applies to all own-label bakery products including celebration cakes, in-store bakery lines and morning goods as of this month. He said that on-pack information would be used to communicate the ’free-from’ message to consumers.

"We have been working with bakery suppliers for the last 12 months," Joanne Elsdon, category products manager for bakery told British Baker. "We are delighted to be the first UK food retailer to deliver this pledge."

She added that its bakery products would now meet the Food Standards Agency’s guidelines regarding recommended salt levels.

The removal of artificial colours and flavours includes E numbers and hydrogenated vegetable oil, Asda said.

The initiative comes after the launch of a Tesco range of breads in August, made without emulsifiers, flavourings or preservatives.

"Our bakery section performed very well over the Christmas period," Huw Edwards added, "with more people buying the Extra Special premium ranges than ever before." Asda’s Extra Special bakery had its best Christmas ever, with sales doubling year-on-year, he said.

Asda revealed in a statement that sales on Christmas Eve were one-third higher than the biggest previous Christmas Eve in 2004.