Panera Purifies Salad Dressing as Cafe-Chain Banishes Additives

By Steve Wynne-Jones
Panera Purifies Salad Dressing as Cafe-Chain Banishes Additives

Panera Bread, the chain of about 1,900 bakery-cafes, has spent the past year working to remove artificial additives from its food. The company says it’s now 85 per cent of the way to its goal of serving “clean” food by the end of 2016, meaning it’s free of additives such as artificial sweeteners, colours and preservatives. While Panera isn’t joining Chipotle in banning genetically modified organisms as well, chief executive officer Ron Shaich said he wanted to educate consumers.

“I’m not here telling anybody that a specific chemical is going to cause cancer in two weeks,” Shaich said in an interview. “What I know is -- in a world where no one knows, and lots of reasonably smart people are concerned -- I’d rather not have my kids eat it and I’d rather not serve it to guests at Panera.”

Panera analyzed its menu and found about 160 items out of 460 that required reformulation. Starting Tuesday, the company will begin serving a new line of salad dressings made from recipes developed without artificial additives. Panera is also publishing a “no-no” list, which features artificial ingredients that have been stripped from its food or will eventually be removed.

The Panera announcement comes as US restaurant chains try to appeal to consumers with natural and organic ingredients. McDonald’s recently said it would stop serving chicken treated with some antibiotics. Dunkin’ Donuts has gotten into the act too, saying it will serve only cage-free eggs.

There are still some items on Panera’s salad menu that include artificial ingredients, such as croutons and bacon. The chain is currently testing a new type of crouton, but fixing bacon could be tricky because it’s difficult to source processed meat without additives. Burnett said she’s confident Panera can hit the 2016 goal, but if they don’t they’ll pull items from the menu.


“The solution is out there,” she said. “It doesn’t keep me up at night.”

Bloomberg News, edited by Hospitality Ireland