ST. LOUIS — Clean ingredients, transparency and a positive impact on the food system form the foundation of a new food policy set forth by Panera Bread Co. In addition to launching its food policy, Panera has announced it intends to remove artificial additives (colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives) from its bakery cafe food menu by the end of 2016.
“Panera was founded on the belief that quick food could be quality food,” said Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and chief executive officer. “We started by baking bread from fresh dough each day in our cafes. That commitment led to others — like our early decision to remove artificial trans fats, post calories on menu boards and invest in serving chicken raised without antibiotics. As we continue to make conscious choices about the food we source and serve, we realized it’s also important to share what we’ve accomplished and where we’re going.”
Panera plans to share what it’s doing through its food policy. Posted in full form at www.panerabread.com/foodpolicy, the strategy focuses on the three areas the bakery cafe chain believes it can have a significant impact and is meant to provide a roadmap for continuous improvement and accountability.
In advocating for clean food, Panera said it is committed to sourcing and serving high-quality ingredients without artificial additives, including added MSG, artificial trans fats, and ingredients the company doesn’t believe need to be in food.
As an example of its progress on this commitment, Panera said it bakes fresh bread every day from fresh dough it makes itself in fresh dough facilities.
“In order to do this, we have our own network of trucks that delivers dough to our bakery cafes, and one of the nation’s largest networks of professional bakers,” the company said. “Our core breads have no artificial preservatives and use the best unbleached flour.”
The bakery cafe also has eliminated artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives to improve taste and quality.
“By replacing deli-style roast beef with sirloin steak, we were able to remove caramel color and now serve all natural beef seasoned with just oil, salt and spices,” Panera said.
Panera’s second food policy commitment is to provide a transparent menu. The company said it is breaking ground by becoming the first national restaurant chain to voluntarily disclose caloric content on menu panels, and also is becoming one of the first national restaurant chains to disclose its comprehensive food policy.
“Our menu is diverse,” Panera said. “We’re committed to transparency to empower guests to choose how they want to eat.”
Finally, Panera said it is committed to making a positive impact on the food system.
“We believe guests deserve to know not only what is in their food, but where it comes from and how companies are impacting the food system,” Panera said.
The company said it is working with and monitoring suppliers and farmers to provide traceability to the source, as well as engaging experts and suppliers to understand how the bakery cafe chain can best reduce the environmental and societal impacts of sourcing palm oil.
“We believe simpler is better,” said Scott Davis, chief concept officer. “Panera is on a mission to help fix a broken food system. We have a long journey ahead, but we’re working closely with the nutrition community, industry experts, farmers, suppliers and others to make a difference. We’re pleased to publicly share our framework and intend to share progress over time.”
Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health and food for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Panera’s release of its food policy makes it an industry leader.