Panera Bread challenges on transparency with whole grain commitment and digital platform

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18 Oct 2018 --- Panera Bread has become the first national restaurant company to disclose the whole grain content of breads on its menu. On all breads over 50 percent whole grain, Panera now labels servings of whole grain per slice, roll or bagel, as well as the whole grain percentage, so guests know exactly what they are eating. The new labeling commitment also coincides with the launch of “Food Interrupted,” Panera’s first-ever digital platform aimed at providing increased transparency.

According to the company, they want people to think about food, what’s in it and where it comes from, so they can make informed decisions about what and how they eat. The chain was one of the key purveyors for clean label in the US through the launch of a "no no list" of "unacceptable ingredients" in 2015. They subsequently achieved a "100 percent clean" portfolio in 2017.

Although the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends whole grains make up at least half of all grains eaten in a day, more than half of US top restaurant chains do not offer a single whole grain option on their menu. Those that do may use vague terms like “multigrain,” “nine grain,” or “made with whole grains” that may create an undue health halo for their bread offerings. By law, bread can only be called whole grain if it offers 50 percent or more whole grain content. Panera currently offers a wider range of whole grain offerings than any other major restaurant chain, including its new Farmstyle Loaf, made with 55 percent whole grain and offering 1.2 servings of whole grain per slice.

Blaine Hurst, Panera CEO explains: “At our size and scale, we believe it’s part of our job to help revolutionize the food industry from the inside out – challenging the way things have always been done. From the whole grain in our breads to the ingredients in our food – we will be relentless, leading by example and committed to increased transparency,” Hurst says. “But we can’t do it alone. People deserve to know more about their food and how it makes its way to their plate. Together, we can make a real change in the food system.”

Sara Burnett, Director of Wellness also comments: “At Panera, we’ve always tried to do what’s right, regardless of what our industry has accepted as efficient or good enough. Interestingly, multiple whole grain options available at grocers through our Panera at Home bread business helped remind us what really matters in bread and inspired us to translate their progress into our restaurants. Guests deserve real, measurable information, but also options – and we offer more whole grain options than any other national restaurant chain. When we combine our own actions with consumer education in our new ‘Food Interrupted’ series, we believe we can create real demand for better food.”

“Food Interrupted” digital platform advocates for food system change
“Food Interrupted,” aims to spark a dialogue about the food system, ultimately giving people more information and simple ways to affect change. The six-episode weekly series will feature Marcus Samuelsson, Hannah Hart, Sam Talbot, Kevin Curry, Chris Cosentino and Rainn Wilson on topics ranging from clean ingredients and sugar consumption to animal welfare and plant-based meals.

The platform launched this week with the first episode “Grains Interrupted,” in which chef Marcus Samuelsson and Weiser Family Farms’ Jon Hammond discuss the importance of ancient grains and their role in the future of food. "Food Interrupted" is now streaming on Facebook Watch. 

FoodIngredientsFirst has reached out to Panera Bread for further details.

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