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Panera Eliminates Artificial Preservatives to Achieve 100% Clean Goal

Image Credit: Panera Bread

Two years after it pledged to eliminate artificial additives from its menu by the end of 2016, Panera Bread has released a new campaign in celebration of meeting its goal.

The restaurant chain has been documenting its “100% clean” journey since the release of its “Food as It Should Be” campaign in 2014. To kick off 2017, Panera has extended the campaign with 15- and 30-second spots touting its now 100% clean food, which it says is free of artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and colors from artificial sources. The ads — complete with imagery of mystery meat and coloring derived from test tubes — drive home the point that the food we eat is often processed and full of artificial ingredients (“Today, it seems like all we know for certain is that we don’t always know what we’re eating”), and are followed by Panera’s clean differentiator.

The company approached the 100% clean process in several stages, first reformulating their soup recipes, followed by their salads, sandwiches, breakfast products, bakery and even Panera at Home grocery products. Each item on Panera’s menu is now free of “No Nos” — the artificial ingredients on their No No List, which include everything from High Fructose Corn Syrup to EDTA and Propylene Glycol.

Chris Hollander, senior vice president and head of marketing said: “We think simpler, cleaner, real ingredients, the type of ingredients you find in your own pantry taste better and are better for you. Why complicate food if it doesn’t need to be?”

According to Hollander, Panera’s “100% clean” marketing will run through the end of the first quarter and will continue to serve as a key message beyond. In addition to TV spots and other traditional advertising, Hollander said the company will be looking more to social media to directly interact with consumers.

“This is an important milestone and it’s important to deliver this message,” Hollander added. “That said, by no means are we done on our journey to be a catalyst for change in the food industry.”

The response to the "Food as It Should Be" campaign has thus far been positive, and since its release six months ago, Panera’s “Clean Food” ad has been viewed 1.5 million times on YouTube. Panera has hit on something that many other companies across industries should be paying attention to: Purpose-driven storytelling and business models are the way of the future in a time where consumers are demanding both greater transparency and high quality, healthy and sustainable products.

Panera isn’t the only one making strides towards more natural offerings. In 2015, food giants like Subway, General Mills, Nestle and Taco Bell made similar pledges to ban artificial ingredients from their food.


Libby MacCarthy is an Editorial Assistant at Sustainable Brands, based in Maine and France. She is a former urban planner specializing in sustainable cities, and an urban farming and film photography enthusiast. She holds a BA in Environment, Society and… [Read more about Libby MacCarthy]