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Panera Removes Bad Stuff From 'at Home' Grocery Products


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What good is a clean image for a restaurant’s menu if the benefits don’t include the products it sells through grocery stores? 

Panera Bread announced it will do away with the remaining artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives, and colors from artificial sources in its Panera at Home products. The company expects its entire portfolio of nearly 50 grocery items to be clean, meaning free of its "No No List" additives, by the end of 2016.

With such frequent press releases from restaurant brands cleaning up their act, it is excellent to see Panera caring enough to extend that basic health/safety commitment to its full range of products—even those that go through a grocery checkout lane. 

The packaged goods industry has historically relied on artificial ingredients to extend shelf stability. Panera has experience working to remove such additives, having already committed to a clean food menu across its nearly 2,000 U.S. bakery-cafes by the end of this year.

“Much of the work that we’ve done to simplify recipes in our bakery-cafes has set a standard for Panera at Home products. However, the challenges in the consumer packaged goods space are unique, where artificial additives have long been used to preserve taste and appearance,” said Sara Burnett, director of wellness and food policy. “For us, the answer was often simple. For instance, we decided early on to use refrigeration to help extend shelf life for products like our soups and salad dressings. Where necessary, we’ve relied on natural preservatives—such as rosemary extract—to do the job.”

The Panera at Home portfolio includes refrigerated soup, mac & cheese, pasta, and salad dressings in addition to artisan frozen bread, sliced sandwich bread and coffee. These products can be purchased individually or together as part of time-saving meal ideas that can be assembled in 20 minutes or less.

“We all want to feel good about the food we feed ourselves and our families, and many of us would like to prepare those meals at home. But it’s hard to find the time,” said Stephanie Crimmins, SVP of Panera at Home.

The Panera at Home grocery line has grown to nearly 50 products available at select retailers across the country. Panera’s refrigerated soup business alone now commands nearly 35 percent market share in the category.

“We’ve spent years building trust with our guests through transparency and investments in the quality of the food we serve,” said Ron Shaich, Panera’s founder and CEO. “Panera at Home is an extension of that work—another way we are offering food as it should be beyond the walls of our bakery-cafes.”

"It's often a challenge to find convenient grocery items that contain ingredients I would find in my own kitchen," said Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of Nutrition Starring You, LLC. “As a mom and nutritionist, I’m always on the lookout for foods that my kids will love, that are made with ingredients that I am confident serving them. I’m encouraged to see companies like Panera continuing to simplify ingredients and provide full nutritional transparency across all the food they serve and sell.”

 

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
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