ST. LOUIS — Panera Bread Co. has made significant progress against its responsibility and sustainability efforts over the past two years, the St. Louis-based bakery-cafe chain noted in the Panera Responsibility Report issued June 29.
The company’s responsibility strategy is centered around four key pillars: ally for wellness; craveable food; everyday oasis; and relationships through warmth. Within each of the pillars, Panera has set goals for its responsibility and sustainability efforts that align with key areas.
In making itself an ally for wellness, Panera has prioritized serving high-quality ingredients, providing menu transparency, providing real food options, improving animal welfare and sourcing food in a responsible way. Since its last report was issued two years ago, Panera has achieved 100% clean ingredients in its U.S. food menu and Panera at Home products and launched a Kids Meal Promise commitment to clean, high-quality children’s meals.
|Ron Shaich, chairman and c.e.o. of Panera|
“Making the commitment to go clean was the easy part,” Ron Shaich, chairman and chief executive officer of Panera, wrote in the company’s report. “Achieving it was more challenging. Our commitment involved removing artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners and colors from artificial sources from our menu items. To get there, we scrutinized some 450 menu items and reformulated 122 different ingredients, resulting in changes to the majority of our bakery-cafe recipes. Our pantry is now filled with only clean, simple ingredients. And many of the major restaurant and food companies are now following our lead.
“When we made our clean commitment, we also thought about kids. In 2016, we challenged our industry to provide better options than the typical kids’ meals found in many places across the country. We committed to continue offering smaller portions of regular menu items and nutritious side dishes, like yogurt, sprouted grain rolls and apples — all of which are 100% clean. And we spoke out about the use of gimmicks and toys in kids’ meals, which distract from honest food choices. This is something we have never done and will not do.”
Panera also has made strides in ensuring its menu balances the bakery-cafe chain’s passion for the craft of good food with its promise to serve the wellness preferences of its customers.
In 2016, Panera introduced a whole grain pan bread to its menu. Made from cracked wheat, rye meal, spelt, oat, flax and amaranth, the bread has less sodium and more fiber than the bakery-cafe’s other traditional artisan bread varieties, Panera said.
Panera also has elevated its sandwich offerings, evolved its salads and refreshed its beverage lineup in recent years. Earlier this year the company rolled out a new line of non-carbonated beverages that provides new flavors, varying degrees of sweetness and lighter formats, such as frescas.
Major renovation efforts at Panera have given the bakery-cafe chain a new look and feel to increase the guest experience. Along those lines, Panera has converted almost 70% of its company-owned bakeries to Panera 2.0 and introduced a major expansion of small order delivery.
“In addition to being about good food, Panera is also about a warm, convenient and safe experience,” Mr. Shaich said. “We are redesigning our bakery-cafes to be even more welcoming destinations — places where people can enjoy a meal with others or spend a quiet moment during a busy day. We are also making it easier to order what you want when you want it through mobile, in-cafe kiosks and Rapid Pick-Up service. And, in 2016, we began scaling delivery, so that we can bring the foods our guests want straight to them. Our plan is to more than double the number of bakery-cafes offering delivery by the end of this year.”
Food safety is another area of progress at Panera. During the past two years, the company said it has improved the traceability of ingredients, increased field visits, and implemented higher standards for food quality and food handling in its bakery-cafes and fresh dough facilities.“Our commitment to food safety has always been strong, and we’ve become even more vigilant over time,” Mr. Shaich said. “In 2016, we scrutinized our food safety processes to identify any gaps so we could nip potential problems in the bud, and we are investing even more in our food safety practices going forward.”