Panera changing soup to ‘clean’ recipes

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – A change coming to soups at Panera restaurants. The company says they’ve changed their recipes so all soups are, “clean.”

What that means: no more artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives. Panera reps say they went through 60 different revisions, trying to keep the same flavor.

Panera sells approximately 200 million servings of soup a year, rotating daily between 10 core soups in addition to seasonal favorites including Turkey Chili and Autumn Squash. Broccoli Cheddar is the Company’s top seller.  You can see a preview of that soup here.

The company says that common commercial soup ingredients – like hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, maltodextrin and sodium phosphate – no longer appear in any of the Company’s bakery-cafe soups.

The restaurant has been moving toward a more natural menu for months.

Panera said it’s the first national chain to publish a comprehensive list of artificial additives and preservatives that will be removed. They announced that they’re removing a preservative called tert-butyl-hydroquinone last March.

Panera is not the only restaurant company to hop on the healthy food bandwagon.

McDonald’s recently promised to stop using chickens treated with certain antibiotics. Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced plans to cut all genetically-modified foods from its burritos and bowls. And Dunkin’ Donuts has dropped titanium dioxide, an additive used in sunscreen and paints, from its powdered donuts.
The shift comes as consumers have become more aware of the unnatural ingredients used by the fast-food industry and are seeking healthy alternatives.

McDonald’s, once the leading fast-food chain, has been struggling to revive sales as consumers’ tastes have changed. It unveiled a turnaround plan Monday that includes better food made with higher-quality ingredients.

But the trend goes beyond fast food. Even some of the world’s largest food companies have been making changes. Kraft is removing artificial preservatives and synthetic colors from its macaroni and cheese, famous for its bright yellow color. Nestle is now making candy bars without artificial colors and flavors. Coke has removed a chemical used in flame retardant from its drinks.

Erik Olson, a health expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, applauded Panera’s decision to “eliminate a wide array of chemical additives from its foods.”

“This is part of the company’s quest to address consumer demands and potential health concerns,” Olson said in a statement released by Panera.

Panera is doing away with common additives such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial trans fats. And it’s also dropping artificial colors and flavors, including chemical compounds like azodicarbonamide, methyl cellulose and potassium bromate.

Panera, which has 1,900 restaurants in the United States and Canada, said it has already started eliminating some of the ingredients.

The company also said it would offer new “clean” salad dressings made without artificial flavors or colors.