Panera Bread, the “bakery-style” cafe found in shopping centers across the country, is the latest fast-food spot to announce it’s removing artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and coloring from its entire menu.
What inspired the healthy menu change? “Our customers shouldn’t need a degree in chemistry to understand our ingredient list,” says Kate Antonacci, Panera’s director of societal impact.
Which is why, in addition to a growing consumer interest in transparency and concern over undeclared fast food ingredients, the company promises to get rid of many hard-to-stomach ingredients by 2016. Panera has not said it will avoid genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), however.
Panera joins a roster of other chains that have recently made similar shifts. Chipotle now indicates when GMOs are “unavoidably” in its food (hint: step away from the crispy corn tortillas). And Subway, which has fostered a “fresh” fast-food reputation, announced it would stop using the yoga-mat chemical azodicarbonamide in its breads (only after it was brought to light by consumer food advocate, Food Babe).
While these restaurants have enjoyed a long run of making customers feel better about choosing a freshly made sandwich or a taco salad over a burger and fries (and you bet you’ll be hearing from them and their competitors about their new wholesome direction), the good news is, they’re also now having to prove their meals actually represent a healthier choice.
Although, you’ll still find sugar-filled fountain soda at all of these places. Baby steps? —Molly Gallagher
For more information, visit www.panerabread.com