Restaurant chains throughout the nation are embracing the idea of cleaner, fresher, whole food options. Panera, Chipotle, McDonald’s and others are working to remove additives and offer healthier choices for their regular and kids menus.
Panera has been leading this march, announcing a bold, company-wide plan to remove artificial preservatives, sweeteners, and flavors and colors from artificial sources from their menu entirely. They’ve given themselves till the end of the year. They are most of the way there.
According to Advertising Age, Panera’s latest triumph has been to alter its “entire bacon experience” by removing artificial ingredients and using thicker cuts prepared in a new brine:
“Panera gets its pork from pigs raised without antibiotics or gestation crates, and the animals are fed a vegetarian diet. With the artificial additives now removed, Panera says no other national chain is serving bacon that meets its standards.”
As they sold 2 million pounds of bacon last year alone, this is a significant move for the company.
Recent consumer trends towards healthier eating combined with lower prices for groceries has meant that restaurants have no choice but to keep up with the demands of the consumers for better menu options or watch their numbers fall.
Positioning itself as a healthy alternative to fast-food options has proven effective for Panera. Their sales and shares are climbing while those of their competitors are falling, in some cases drastically.
The campaign is a trust-building one. Panera has been unusually transparent about their commitment to “Food as it should be,” which is their tagline. They even post an updated “No No List” on their website indicating the 80 “No No” items (artificial preservatives, sweeteners, and flavors along with colors from artificial sources) they are working to remove. They keep it updated as to what has been removed and what is being removed.
It remains to be seen whether other restaurants will follow Panera’s in bold steps, but one can’t help but hope they all will.