Panera to roll out low-sugar beverages

by Eric Schroeder
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Panera non-carbonated teas, lemonades and frescas
Panera is launching a new line of non-carbonated teas, lemonades and frescas.

ST. LOUIS — Panera Bread Co. on April 5 will introduce a line of non-carbonated craft beverages made with no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, flavors or colors from artificial sources. As part of the launch, Panera said it will post the beverages’ calorie and added sugar content at the fountain, making it the first national restaurant chain to take such an action.

Ron Shaich, chief executive officer of Panera, is urging others in the beverage and restaurant industries to join Panera in its effort to provide increased transparency to customers.

This is not the first time Panera has taken a leadership role in communicating nutrition information to consumers. In 2010, the restaurant chain began voluntarily posting calories on its menu boards, and posting added sugar in beverages is the next step in the company’s progressive effort to improve transparency.

Ron Shaich, Panera
Ron Shaich, c.e.o. of Panera

“With up to 75 grams of sugar – just one 20-oz soft drink contains more than the recommended daily amount of added sugar,” Mr. Shaich said. “While we won’t tell people what they should drink, we want to provide real options and real transparency — and we’re challenging the industry to join us.”

The new line of non-carbonated teas, lemonades and frescas will be available in select cities for the next few months before becoming available nationwide by September. The beverages offer a range of sweetness levels and include:

Panera Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca
Panera's Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca is a lightly sweetened fresca with fruit juice and no added sugar.
 

Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca: lightly sweetened fresca with fruit juice and no added sugar

Iced Black Tea and Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea: unsweetened teas with no added sugar

• Passion Papaya Green Tea, Blood Orange Lemonade and Agave Lemonade: teas and lemonades that contain less than 35 grams of added sugar per 20-oz cup.

“We believe people deserve to know exactly what’s in their drink so they can make the best choice for their lifestyle,” said Sara Burnett, director of wellness at Panera Bread. “We know more and more guests are looking to reduce their added sugar consumption, and we’re providing an increased number of real, clean options with our new teas, lemonades and frescas.”

Earlier this year Panera celebrated its U.S. food menu being completely free of artificial sweeteners, preservatives, flavors and colors from artificial sources, and in 2015 the company unveiled its “No No List.”

Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, applauded Panera’s announcement.

“Soda and other sugary drinks promote diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other health problems,” Ms. Wootan said. “Good for Panera for getting creative with new, lower-sugar drinks and for giving people more information at soda fountains, where it will be maximally useful.”
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