Earlier this month, Panera Bread released a list of over 150 artificial additives, preservatives and other ingredients that it has already removed or will eliminate from its bakery-cafe food menus. Calling it the company’s “No No List,” Panera, which has over 1,900 locations in the U.S., intends to make the transition complete by the end of 2016, according to the company.
Curiously, an announcement of the new list did not mention of Panera’s beverage offerings, which include a variety of PepsiCo’s artificially sweetened sodas, nor whether they would be overhauled in favor of naturally formulated alternatives.
In a call with BevNET, Jonathan Yohannan, the director of public relations for Panera Bread, stated that, for the time being, the No No List will not be extended to beverages sold at its stores. Yohannan noted that while Panera has made strides to remove certain ingredients from its bakery-based items — a process that began last year — the company’s list is “a start for us.”
“We’re focused right now on our bakery-cafe items,” Yohannan said.
While many health advocates praised Panera’s decision to trim artificial additives from its prepared food, Michael Jacobson, the executive director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an influential watchdog group, questioned the restaurant chain’s exclusion of artificial additives found in Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew, which Panera sells in bottle and fountain options.
“Panera should have made clear that these improvements won’t happen at the soda fountain,” Jacobson said in a statement published on May 5. “Presumably the high-fructose corn syrup or the poorly tested sweetener acesulfame potassium will remain in the Pepsi and Diet Pepsi it sells; the same goes for the Yellow 5, the calcium disodium EDTA, and the brominated vegetable oil in its Mountain Dew.”
However, Panera is examining ways to offer healthier beverage options, according to Amanda Cardosi, a public relations manager with the company. Replying to further inquiry, Cardosi wrote in an e-mail to BevNET that Panera is “on a journey to constantly improve, and a review of our beverages is on the list.” She noted that the company is “in discussions with our vendors to look at options that get us to a place with no high fructose corn syrup and more natural and low calorie sweeteners.”
Cardosi pointed to Panera’s inclusion of tea, lemonade and orange juice as examples of beverages sold in its stores that are not made without artificial additives. The company also has “several bottled beverage options, teas and diet soda options for those who focus on added sugars in their diet,” she said.
Bolstering its case to deliver on more better-for-you beverage options, Panera recently partnered with two organic beverage companies, having added Purity Organic’s Strawberry Paradise Juice to its menu in approximately 1,800 locations nationwide and testing Harmless Harvest’s 100% Raw Coconut Water in 140 stores. Purity’s strawberry-flavored juice drink does pack 270 calories and 63 grams of sugar per 16.9 oz bottle, but its organic formulation (organic strawberry puree, organic lemon juice concentrate) and 20 percent juice content, is likely to find some fans at Panera. Meanwhile, Harmless Harvest’s 8 oz. bottle of coconut water is currently being sold at Panera locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, upstate New York, Massachusetts and California.