Thinking about the foods on the bakery café’s menu, Ron Shaich, founder and CEO of Panera Bread Co (NASDAQ:PNRA), visualizes serving them to his 11-year old daughter and 16-year old son. Shaich told Fortune that his children were eating Panera 10 to 11 times a week, and he didn’t want to serve them junk food.
This makes clear why Shaich has been on a personal, decades-long operation to bring healthier and clean ingredients into Panera’s chain while also endorsing more transparency regarding that ongoing process. Over a decade ago, Panera started to use chicken bred without the use of antibiotics.This step was later extended to all of the proteins it serves.
The firm also set red lines for trans fats, listed calorie data on all menus and in a recent development started to eliminate artificial additives.
The latter is still an ongoing process. Panera today revealed the progress the restaurant chain has achieved since pledging last June only to use clean ingredients by the end of 2016.
Panera maintains that it is the first ever US National Restaurant firm to share publicly an exhaustive list of ingredients that have been taken off from its menu or will never appear on future items. In all, around 168 of Panera’s approximately 460 ingredients need to be reformulated to align with Panera’s new standards.
Within the fast-casual restaurant space, a category helmed by Panera and burrito chain Chipotle CMG, the message is often just as significant as the menu. Those chains try to use the cleanest ingredients possible, even if it leads to decreased profits in the short term.
However, executives justified the practice by stating diners in particular Millennilas are rewarding restaurants that keep their promises to serve better food with fresher ingredients.
The movement is impacting not only the restaurant industry, but also the country’s grocery stores as consumers flock to the areas where vegetables, meats and dairy are kept. At the same time, processed foods are experiencing a significant slump in sales.