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    Panera's Mission for Transparency Goes Digital

  • The fast casual is also becoming the first chain in the nation to disclose whole grain content on its menu.

    flickr: Mike Mozart
    Panera isn’t a stranger to transparency when it comes to its menu.

    Keeping to its commitment to transparency, Panera Bread is launching “Food Interrupted,” a digital platform featuring videos that will take a look at everything that goes into the chain’s offerings along with a deeper discussion about different aspects of the food industry. This is the fast casual's first digital platform aimed at providing increased transparency in brand history.

    Check out Panera's new dedicated website and video.

    To kick off the initiative, the first episode in the six episode weekly series, which launches October 16, will focus on grains with a discussion led by Chef Marcus Samuelsson and Jon Hammond of Weiser Family Farms’ about the importance of ancient grains and how they will factor into the future of food.

    The launch of the new digital platform coincides with the new labeling of breads at the chain. Panera Bread will now feature labels breaking down the whole grain content of breads containing 50 percent or more whole grain. Panera said it is the first restaurant chain in the nation to disclose whole grain content on its menu.

    “At our size and scale, we believe it’s part of our job to help revolutionize the food industry from the inside out—challenging the way things have always been done. From the whole grain in our breads to the ingredients in our food—we will be relentless, leading by example and committed to increased transparency,” said Blaine Hurst, Panera’s CEO, who took over last January for Ron Shaich after he stepped down, in a statement. “But we can’t do it alone. People deserve to know more about their food and how it makes its way to their plate. Together, we can make a real change in the food system.”

    The USDA currently recommends whole grains make up at least half of all grains eaten in a day. Panera said, despite the notion, more than half of the country’s top restaurant chains do not offer a single whole grain option on their menu. “Those that do may use vague terms like “multigrain,’ ‘nine grain,’ or ‘made with whole grains’ that may create an undue health halo for their bread offerings,” Panera said.

    By law, a bread can only be called “whole grain” if it offers 50 percent or more whole grain content. Panera said it offers a wider ranger of whole grain offerings than any other major restaurant chain, including its new Farmstyle Loaf, which is made with 55 percent whole grain and offers 1.2 servings of whole grain per slice.

    Panera Bread

    Panera's old label.

    Panera Bread

    The new label, complete with whole grain content.

    Panera is hoping “Food Interrupted,” in In cooperation with Participant Media’s SoulPancake, ACE Content, and HuffPost, as well as this new labeling system will help push customers into choosing healthier eating options by knowing what their food is made of.

    “At Panera, we’ve always tried to do what’s right, regardless of what our industry has accepted as efficient or good enough,” Panera’s Director of Wellness Sara Burnett added. “Interestingly, multiple whole grain options available at grocers through our Panera at Home bread business helped remind us what really matters in bread and inspired us to translate their progress into our restaurants. Guests deserve real, measurable information, but also options—and we offer more whole grain options than any other national restaurant chain." 

    “When we combine our own actions with consumer education in our new “Food Interrupted” series, we believe we can create real demand for better food.”

    Panera isn’t a stranger to transparency when it comes to its menu. With a commitment to “100 percent clean food,” the brand has taken a few steps to show customers a nutritional breakdown of the food on the menu.

    After adding calorie amounts next to items on the menu, Panera took nutritional labeling one step further. In August 2017, the fast casual introduced “sweet facts” fountain beverage cups, becoming the first restaurant chain in the nation to add calorie amounts and added sugar amounts of popular drinks to drink labels. The change led to an increase in consumption of smaller beverages sizes and beverages that were lightly sweetened.

    Before stepping down, Shaich urged others in the industry to get rid of the nutritionally empty meals and make the kids’ menu healthier. At Panera every menu item can be ordered as a kids’ item allowing younger customers to get a nutritionally beneficial meal and still enjoy it.

    With the launch of Food Interrupted, Panera wants to propel the conversation about healthy food and spur further discussion about what we’re putting in our bodies. The first episode of the series is available on food-interrupted.com and Facebook.

    As for the rest of the series, viewers can expect to see Hannah Hart, Rainn Wilson, Kevin Curry, Chris Cosentino, and Sam Talbot discussing everything from urban gardeners and managing sugar consumption with diabetes to what makes an egg 100 percent an egg.

    Here's the full upcoming schedule of "Food Interrupted."

    • “Plants Interrupted” (airing October 22)—Kevin Curry and firefighter turned cookbook author Rip Esselstyn visit a firehouse to discuss the benefits of a more plant-based diet.
    • “Sugar Interrupted” (October 29) —Chef Sam Talbot, a Type1 Diabetic, discusses managing sugar intake and explores emerging technology that could be a potential game changer for those struggling with diabetes.
    • “Eggs Interrupted” (November 5) —New York Times Best-Selling author and food enthusiast, Hannah Hart, visits an egg farm to learn what makes an egg 100 percent real and discusses what some “eggs” are really made of.
    • “Meat Interrupted” (November 12)—Chef Chris Cosentino visits a cattle ranch to learn about groundbreaking, humane technology helping to track animal health.
    • “Clean Interrupted” (November 19)—Actor Rainn Wilson, in pursuit of his own clean food journey, explores cutting-edge crop sharing among urban gardeners.