- We tried everything on the UK and US Pret A Manger menus to find out the big differences between the two.
- While the two food chains look similar on the surface there were differences between the sizes, calories, and ingredients.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video:
Harry: From calorie count to portion sizes, we wanted to find out all the differences between Pret A Manger in the UK and the US. This is “Food Wars.”
Joe: OK, slight problem. There’s only one Pret in LA, and it’s at the airport. And due to the pandemic, it’s currently closed. The Pret, not the airport. Luckily, there’s plenty of Prets in New York City, where I have many colleagues and casual acquaintances who would love to help me out. Everyone, meet Irene.
Irene: Hi, everyone. Sorry I’m not Joe, but I’ll try not to let you down. I did ask if I could wear one of these, but they said no. So you’re stuck with my face. Sorry.
Harry: Here is everything you will only find on the menu at a UK Pret A Manger.
Irene: And here’s everything you can only find on the menu at a US Pret.
Harry: We’ll start with the drinks. We have quite a few exclusive drink options in the UK, starting with this one, a turmeric latte, and also a matcha latte, both of which are made with coconut milk instead of regular milk. I’m going to try the turmeric latte, just because the color is so vivid and a little bit off-putting. I want to find out if it tastes as bad as it looks. Oh, man. No, no. It tastes like a chicken korma. Which is great, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want to drink that from a coffee shop. Then we have iced versions of both of these. So we have an iced turmeric latte and an iced matcha latte. Next up we’ve got some frappés. We have a classic frappé here, which is just coffee, and then we have a chocolate frappé at the back as well. Then we have some bottled and canned exclusive drinks as well. For example, apple juice. Sparkling lemon and rhubarb drink. Then we have a sparkling ginger drink. And over here we have a sparkling apple drink. And, finally, a sparkling grape and elderflower drink.
Irene: Our exclusive drinks include an organic, single-origin Ethiopia coffee, salted caramel latte, salted caramel hot chocolate, s’mores hot chocolate, cold-brew coffee, iced green tea, classic lemonade, grapefruit sparkling water, and raspberry-lime sparkling water.
Harry: If you want to start your day off with a Pret breakfast, here are some options you’ll find in the UK. We’ll start with a classic, which is porridge. In the UK, you can get porridge three ways. You can get it plain, like we have here, you can get it with a fruit compote on the top, or you can get it with cranberries and seeds. A Very Berry croissant. Croissant? Croissant. Croissant. Croissant. At the front here we have a Very Berry croissant, which is a kind of, like, folded croissant with some berry jam in the middle. At the back here we have a ham, bacon, cheese, and tomato croissant. Double the pork, double the fun. Then we have some breakfast-roll options, such as this one, which is a sausage and egg roll. Then we have three breakfast baguettes. Here, we have an egg and bacon baguette. In the middle, we have an egg and salmon baguette. And then, over here, we have an egg and avocado baguette. On top of this, there’s a couple of bits that we couldn’t get today because of a reduced menu. These include a veggie roll, a five berry bowl, and a Mango & Banana Sunshine Bowl, which sounds just delightful.
Irene: Only exclusive breakfast item we were able to get is the shakshuka frittata. But the other menu items are the egg and bacon brioche roll, an egg and cheddar brioche roll, an egg white Greek frittata, a ham and spinach frittata, a Morning Glory muffin, and an everything bagel, and an energy bagel.
Harry: We have two exclusive salads in the UK. This one is the tuna Nicoise, and this one is the Chef’s Italian Chicken.
Irene: We have three exclusive salads. The first is the chicken avocado salad. This is the chicken Caesar salad.
Joe: Salads, ugh!
Irene: Chipotle chicken salad is my favorite.
Harry: Now we’re on to sandwiches and wraps. We have quite a few exclusive sandwiches and wraps in the UK. We have a personal favorite of mine, which is a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich. This one here is a jambon-beurre, which is just a very simple ham, butter, and pickle sandwich. Then we have some baguette options, including this one, which is an Avo, Olives & Toms baguette. That’s avocado, olives, and tomatoes, for the uninitiated. Here we have a Posh Cheddar & Pickle sandwich. Two things to note here. One, I’m not sure why this is posh. Two, when we say pickle in this context, we don’t mean gherkins. We actually mean pickle, which is a British condiment made with kind of, like, pickle juices, but also some other vegetables in there as well. The last baguette we were able to get today is this one, which is a chicken Caesar and bacon baguette. Then we have a couple of wrap options, such as this one, which is a hoisin duck salad wrap, and this one, which is a hummus and chipotle wrap. The ones we were unable to get today include a tuna and cucumber sandwich and a Brie, tomato, and basil baguette.
Irene: Our sandwiches and wraps include the cheddar and tomato, chipotle and chicken avocado wrap, Bang Bang Chicken Wrap. It’s not spicy but has, like, a kick to it. This is good. I might start getting it. The next ones we have up on our exclusive list is the pesto chicken flatbread. This is the falafel and hummus flatbread, pesto caprese baguette, and the balsamic chicken and mozzarella baguette.
Harry: Now, usually I’d have a bunch of exclusive soups to show you from a UK Pret. However, they’ve reduced the menu because of the pandemic. Here’s what we’d normally be able to find. A chicken laksa, a chicken, broccoli, and brown rice, chicken pot pie soup, miso soup, pea and mint soup, chicken katsu curry soup, mushroom risotto soup, and a red Thai veg soup.
Irene: So, our soup options include the Moroccan lentil, turkey chili, and the turmeric chicken and farro. Far-oh? Fa – I think it’s farro. They came with all this bread, though, which is pretty fun. And it’s the good kind of bread, too. You know bread is good when it comes in, like, a triangular shape. That’s just been my observation over the years. Oh, that’s good for cold soup.
Cameraperson: Is that a triangular shape?
Narrator: Live from New York, it’s “What Shape Is It?”
Irene: Corner, corner, triangular.
Joe: Yeah, Irene, I believe that’s a rhombus. It’s not a triangle. Triangle, to my understanding, means three sides, right? Right?
Harry: Joe, you’re a lot closer with a rhombus, but I personally am gonna go with parallelogram.
Narrator: “What Shape Is It?” is filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Irene: I think this is a triangular shape. But I guess fine. It’s like a diamond shape. But I’m just saying that when bread comes in, like, a geometric shape, it’s good bread. The fanciest restaurants I’ve gone to, they have bread that’s shaped like this. Or, like, even sharper.
Joe: What kind of bread are you eating that’s sharp? Where are you going?
Harry: Then, finally, we’re on to the snacks. At a UK Pret, you will be able to find some mature cheddar and red onion crisps, some smoked chipotle crisps, some sweet and salt popcorn, these little hazelnut truffles, Pret A Mango, and a chocolate brownie bar.
Irene: [mocking Joe] Kettle corn? What even is kettle corn?
Joe: What even – what even is kettle corn?
Irene: We are so exclusive, we were only able to get one of our exclusive snacks, which is kettle corn. So, this was the only exclusive snack we were able to get, but the other items on the menu are the nut bar, popcorn bar, Pret bar, and some omega-3 mix.
Harry: Let’s start with the drinks. In the UK, the majority of hot drinks only come in one size, which is 12 ounces. Pret says this is to optimize efficiency and to keep things simple for customers. However, there are two exceptions to this rule. Firstly, if you order a flat white from a UK Pret, it’s served as an 8-ounce drink. Then, if you order an espresso or a macchiato, it comes in one of these adorable little 4-ounce cups.
Irene: All right. So, in the US, our hot coffees come in three sizes. Small, medium, and large. It’s ridiculous. But we also have some exceptions to the rules. Our flat white is only served as an 8-ounce drink. But our macchiato is 4 ounces, like the UK’s. And our espresso is actually just 2 ounces. I guess they’re trying to limit our caffeine intake. Maybe.
Harry: We’re going to measure our largest black coffee to find out if you’re actually getting as much as you’re told you are. So, to Pret’s credit, that is exactly 12 ounces.
Irene: We are not getting as much coffee as they say we are. But … maybe that’s a good thing? 20’s kind of a lot. Joe: Not getting as much coffee as advertised, huh, Irene? Welcome to “Food Wars.” What about iced coffees? Well, in the UK, these also just come in one size. Well, over here, we can get iced black coffee as either a 16- or 24-ounce serving. That’s a lot of coffee. I don’t get people who drink black coffee.
Harry: We’re both gonna measure our largest iced black coffee to find out what they come to. [coffee gurgling] So, once again, this came to exactly 12 ounces. So, the iced coffee is also not the advertised amount. It’s supposed to be 24 ounces, but it looks like it’s only about 21.
Joe: It’s an international coffee conspiracy! Season two, we’re still dealing with this! I mean, is someone gonna do something about this?
Irene: Once again, maybe not a bad thing. I feel like a lot of people are going to disagree with that. Do you need this much caffeine in your life? Probably.
I don’t know if Joe or Harry drinks this much coffee. I feel like Joe might. He – he seems like he would. He has that energy. Joe just looks like he just drinks, like, five cups of black coffee a day, and then he’s up at, like, 2 a.m., just, like, haunted.
Joe: Mm-hmm. Yes, I do. I drink a lot of coffee. I should say that it’s only April and I’ve already passed three kidney stones this year.
Harry: What about some of the food options? This is an egg salad sandwich from a UK Pret. We’re going to weigh this one to see how much it comes to.
Irene: It’s exactly 250 grams. Maybe our eggs are heavier. It’s all those preservatives. If you were raised here, you wouldn’t be worried. We should probably be worried.
[Irene eating egg salad sandwich]
It’s not that good. But I’m hungry.
Joe: ♪ Egg salad is gross! ♪
Irene: Like, it genuinely doesn’t taste good, but I’m just taking bites of it.
Harry: So, that was a classic sandwich, but what about a baguette? This is a ham and cheese baguette from a UK Pret. So, our UK ham and cheese baguette came to exactly 200 grams.
Irene: Well, here’s our famous ham and cheese baguette. It says it should weigh 251 grams. It’s exactly 251 grams. That’s impressive. That’s actually kind of scary. I know it should weigh exactly the amount it says it should, but, like, it’s kind of cool when it actually does.
Harry:Next up, we’ve got this muffin. This is a double berry muffin from a UK Pret, which is a blueberry muffin with some extra blueberry compote in the middle.
Irene: All right, so, we have our classic blueberry muffin, without the extra compote in the middle.
Harry: Let’s find out how much it weighs.
♪ Then it’s a muffin! ♪ Do you know the muffin man? The muffin man? The muffin man! Yes, I know the muffin man who lives on Drury Lane. God, I love “Shrek.”
Joe: Could we get a Harry Shrek? Can we get Harry’s face turned into Shrek, please? You know I’ve never seen “Shrek”?
Harry: My surname’s an anagram of Shrek.
Harry: Let’s start with the nutritional information for some of Pret’s coffees. An Americano in the UK contains nothing. There’s no calories, fat, sugar or salt in here.
Irene: So, that’s also true here. It’s even the same for our largest size. 20 ounces of US Americano has basically no nutritional value.
Harry: There are more notable differences when milk gets involved. Take the flat white, for example. In the UK, one of these is 80 calories.
Irene: OK, well, in the US, a flat white contains 90 calories, but it apparently has absolutely no fat, while the UK version has 2.9 grams of fat. So, this is because Pret’s US website bases the nutritionals for its coffees on skim milk, whereas the UK bases its info on 2% milk. If we add the nutritional info for an 8-ounce serving of whole milk from a US Pret, the flat white looks more like this.
Harry: What about the least healthy drink on the UK menu? Well, it’s actually this, the chocolate frappé. One of these contains 439 calories, which is a little over a fifth of your daily allowance. More alarmingly, this also contains your entire daily allowance of sugar.
Irene: So, this is our least healthy drink. It’s a salted caramel hot chocolate. Pound for pound, it actually has less calories than the UK’s chocolate frappé, with only 410 calories compared to their 439 calories. So while the UK’s drink is limited to one size, in the US we have a second size option. This brings the calories up to 700 and also takes the sugar up to 113 grams, which is more than double your daily recommended limit. Why do they let us add so much sugar? And you can take it even further by adding a syrup to your drink. One pump of Pret’s toasted marshmallow syrup will add another 24 grams of sugar to your drink, bringing the total to 274% of your daily sugar allowance. Oh, God, that’s sweet. That’s the thing. I like my coffee sweet. Like, I only drink sweet coffee, so this is right up my lane. Like, it has to be so sweet it hurts me.
Joe: Yeah, hot chocolate is what that’s called. What you want is a hot chocolate.
Irene: Mm. You’re right, this is not coffee. It’s good, though.
Harry: What about some food options? In the UK, the most calorific sandwich is this one, the Classic Super Club. There is chicken, bacon, tomato, lettuce, mayo, and seasoning in here, and it leaves the total calories at 526.
Irene: That’s lower than our most calorific sandwich, chicken and bacon, which is one of my favorites. One of these contains 570 calories and also half of your daily sodium allowance. I did not know that. But this isn’t the most calorific thing on the menu. That would be the falafel and red peppers wrap, which we weren’t able to get. But it has 630 calories, which is more than any other hot food item.
Harry: Now, unusually for “Food Wars,” the highest-calorie item in the UK is actually more calorific than the biggest one in America. For us, it’s the Swedish meatball hot wrap, which comes in at 661 calories. The calorie count might not be super high for this, but there is also 81% of your daily saturated fat in here.
Irene: For the most part, Pret uses natural ingredients for things where possible.
Harry: However, after combing through their ingredients lists in the UK and the US, we did find one or two things to look out for. For example, caramel color. It’s used in a range of Pret products, from the dressing that they put on their salads to the caramel syrups, which they put into their drinks. Well, in the US, you’ll find caramel color in the salted caramel hot chocolate and the salted caramel latte. Which I drink. Caramel color is worth pointing out because it’s on the state of California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals which are known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.
Irene: Ooh, reproductive toxicity. That’s fun. Um. [laughs] See, I was scared, but the good news is there’s only two types of caramel color, classes III and IV, that contain the chemical that’s to blame for this, 4-MEI.
Harry: The bad news is that class IV caramel color does appear on the menu in the UK. While there is some evidence that suggests that the amounts currently in our food are pretty safe, the state of California banning it isn’t a great look.
Irene: Meanwhile, at a federal level, the FDA still says that there is “no reason to believe that there are any immediate or short-term health risks presented by 4-MEI at the levels expected in food.” So, kind of up to you. They’re lying. We shouldn’t be putting this out there!
Harry: The one other thing worth pointing out is the difference between the wraps used in the two countries. There’s only one wrap used in the UK, and it’s this one, the kibbled rye wrap. Here’s the ingredients list.
Irene: We also have kibbled rye wraps in the US, and the ingredients list is virtually identical. But we can also get a plain tortilla wrap as part of the falafel and red peppers and Pret’s chicken Parm wraps. The ingredients list for this wrap is a little more alarming. There’s three different gums in here, but it’s actually the fumaric acid you may want to watch out for. It’s an acidity regulator that’s pretty common in tortillas. But the European Union says that while it’s practically nontoxic, long-term exposure is probably toxic to your kidneys due to the results of studies carried out on calves and rats. [laughing]
Joe: Yeah, I would just not eat it.
Irene: I wouldn’t say Pret’s exciting. Like, they’re just a solid option. They’re there for you.
Joe: No, Pret’s the kind of place you eat on accident once. And I’m very glad I didn’t have to eat any of that food, ’cause it all looked bland as ♪ hell! ♪ I’m singing a lot today. All right. We done.