Panera is committed to removing artificial additives from its products by 2016. Photo: Panera

Thirty years ago, at a time when quick service often meant low quality to the typical consumer, Panera Bread set out to challenge this expectation. Now as part of a sweeping commitment to menu transparency, Panera Bread intends to move to 100 percent cage-free eggs in US Panera Bread and St. Louis Bread Co. bakery-cafe food menus by 2020. This will include shell eggs, hardboiled and liquid egg whites in addition to those used in sweet goods, soufflés and dressings – a total of more than 120 million eggs system wide annually.

The company is presently 21 percent cage-free relative to the approximately 70 million shell eggs, hard boiled and liquid egg whites prepared in cafe in 2015. All hens that supply shell eggs and hard boiled eggs for Panera also meet the standard for no antibiotics ever and are fed a vegetarian-only diet.

Future plans

Now with investments in technology and operations, Panera Bread offers new ways for customers to enjoy Panera favorites, including mobile ordering and Rapid Pick-Up for to-go orders.

Panera Bread is focused on building competitive advantage by reducing customer friction in its cafes through its Panera 2.0 initiative, which includes digital access and improved operational processes, and driving customer desire through innovation in food, marketing and store design. Panera has also been focused on driving continued traditional cafe expansion, while working to enhance capabilities necessary to generate expanded growth in several large adjacent businesses, including large-order delivery (catering), small-order delivery and consumer packaged goods.

As of September 29, 2015, there were 1,946 bakery-cafes in 46 states and in Ontario, Canada operating under the Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co. or Paradise Bakery & Cafe names.

Clean label commitment

Earlier in 2015, Panera Bread reaffirmed its commitment to remove artificial additives by publishing a list of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives that the company has eliminated or intends to remove from its US Panera Bread and St. Louis Bread Co. bakery-cafe food menus by the end of 2016. Panera is the first national restaurant company in the US to publically share a comprehensive list of ingredients that will be removed from or never appear in its menu items.

“For more than a decade, we’ve been working to reduce antibiotic use and confinement across our supply chain,” says Panera Bread founder and chief executive officer Ron Shaich. “We are honored to have been recognized as one of the two best performing national restaurant companies in an independent report on antibiotics usage and transparency in September. While there is more work to be done, we are within reach of a menu without antibiotics and unnecessary confinement. We are committed to transparency – which means sharing where we are and where we plan to go.”

Panera Bread recently shared its progress in reducing confinement and antibiotics across its US Panera Bread and St. Louis Bread Co. bakery-cafe menus.

Highlights include:

  • Laying Hens (Eggs): 100% cage-free by 2020
  • Pigs (Pregnant sows): 100% gestation-crate free in 2015
  • Poultry: 100% of chicken and 100% of roasted turkey in sandwiches and salads raised without antibiotics in 2015
  • Beef Cattle: 89% grass fed, free range in 2015

“We know that guests are increasingly seeking plant-based proteins for personal health reasons and, or to reduce their environmental impact. To that end, we have been adding plant-based proteins like edamame and organic quinoa to our pantry of ingredients, so all guests can eat well the way they want,” says Sara Burnett, Panera Bread’s director of wellness and food policy.

In 2015, 100 percent of the chicken and 100 percent of the roasted turkey served on Panera’s sandwiches and salads, more than 33 million pounds, is raised without antibiotics and fed a vegetarian-only diet.

Panera expects that by the end of the year its entire pork supply, approximately 7 million pounds, will be gestation-crate free, raised without antibiotics and fed a vegetarian-only diet. Also by the end of this year Panera said 100 percent of its chicken and 100 percent of its roasted turkey will be raised without antibiotics.

“We’re thankful for Panera Bread’s leadership on animal welfare. Whether it’s switching to 100% cage-free eggs by 2020, or the company’s commitment to offer more delicious plant-based meals, Panera is demonstrating that social responsibility goes hand-in-hand with being a successful national restaurant brand.” says Josh Balk, senior food policy director for The Humane Society of the United States.

Removing artificial additives

For more than a year, Panera’s culinary team has been working alongside trusted suppliers to “un-engineer” its food menu, removing the artificial additives that have become prevalent across the industry’s supply chain. The project has meant ongoing recipe development and testing – from finding replacements for artificial colors in pastries to removing commonly used artificial preservatives in soups. All of this work has been done with the standard of maintaining or improving taste.

The artificial additives on the “No No List” will be removed across the company’s food menu, from bakery to soups to salads and sandwiches. The list also includes substances like high fructose corn syrup and artificial trans fats. There are more than 150 ingredients that will be impacted.

Panera Bread began with a simple commitment: to bake fresh bread from fresh dough in every bakery-cafe, every day. They would use no artificial preservatives or short cuts, just bakers with simple ingredients and hot ovens. Each night, any unsold bread and baked goods were shared with neighbors in need. These traditions carry on today, as Panera Bread has continued to find ways to be an “ally” to guests.