Recently, Chipotle announced it would only make burritos with non-genetically modified ingredients. Chipotle's fast, casual competitor, Panera has announced plans to drop 150 items from its list of ingredients following in its footsteps.
Panera has recently published its "No-No List" online, which includes the artificial preservatives, sweeteners, and flavors that Panera says will be taken off the menu by the end of 2016.
When asked about the drastic changes, Panera Bread founder and CEO Ron Shaich told Fortune:
"It is a much higher standard than what makes business sense. ...It is 'how do I want to feed my daughter?' That's the gold-standard question, and when I answer that, it tells me what I want to do for my customers."
Panera, much like Chipotle, has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to removing items from its menu that are perceived as being unhealthy. More than a decade ago, Panera stopped using meat from animals that had taken antibiotics. Less than nine years ago, the company removed trans fat from its menus across the country.
This menu 'cleanse' was once unique to places like Panera and Chipotle, but over the past year many large corporations and restaurant chains like McDonalds, Nestle, Kraft, and Tyson have all joined the battle of appealing to health conscious consumers.
Making these major changes to the menu, doesn't come without challenges. Panera CEO says removing certain ingredients from its salad dressings was "the most challenging category by far." It took the company months to reformulate its dressing to fit the new standard.
Chipotle has experienced first hand the difficulties that can be created by sticking with a tougher standard. The company was forced to cut its ties with one of its major pork suppliers because the supplier was not raising its livestock according to the restaurant's responsibly-raised standards. Ultimately, the company had to stop serving pork in many of its locations across the country. This had a negative effect on sales.
While a healthier menu is undoubtedly a popular trend, it is also an expensive one. Panera's expense rose to $479 million during the first quarter of 2015, which is 10% higher than a year ago.
How do you feel about Panera's menu changes? Have your Panera favorites made the cut?
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