Panera Becomes The Latest Food Company To Eliminate Artificial Ingredients

Panera Bread Co PNRA 0.49% plans to remove 150 artificial ingredients from its kitchens by 2017.

The move makes Panera the latest food company to make menu adjustments in response to growing consumer demand for healthier, natural food and menu transparency.

Targeted Ingredients

The types of ingredients that will soon be blacklisted at Panera include artificial sweeteners, preservatives and artificial flavor enhancers.

“We’re trying to draw a line in the sand in the industry so that consumers have an easy way to know what’s in the food they buy,” said Panera CEO Ron Shaich.

Natural Food Revolution?

Panera’s new initiative is just the latest in a long list of moves by food companies to eliminate unnatural and unhealthy ingredients.

In December, Hershey Co HSY 0.18% announced plans to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from its candy products as part of its efforts to use “ingredients that are simple and easy to understand.”

Kraft Foods Group Inc KRFT 0.62% recently announced that it will be replacing the artificial orange colorings in its macaroni and cheese product with natural colorings made from spices like turmeric and paprika.

PepsiCo, Inc. PEP 0.35% has also decided to replace the artificial sweetener aspartame used in Diet Pepsi with sucralose.

McDonald’s Corporation MCD 0.4%, which has been struggling with slumping sales, is hoping that its recent commitment to a healthier menu will help the company turn things around. After McDonald’s announced plans to no longer sell products made with chicken treated with human antibiotics, McDonald’s meat supplier Tyson Foods, Inc. TSN 0.1% announced that it will no longer be using antibiotics in its poultry and will be taking steps to eliminate them from other meat products as well.

A Delicate Balance

Companies eliminating or changing ingredients have to be very careful to do it in a way that keeps customers happy. Above anything else, customers want food that tastes good, and recipe changes made by iconic brands should ideally not alter the taste that consumers are used to.

In addition, changes that are seen as more of a gimmick than a meaningful effort to provide healthier products can be perceived as insulting to health-conscious consumers and hurt a company’s reputation. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. CMG 0.25% experienced some of this type of backlash when it announced its intention to eliminate genetically modified ingredients from its menu.

Panera hopes that its menu moves will be taken as a genuine effort to improve the quality of its products, a change that could ultimately boost the company’s bottom line.

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