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Panera Bread Continues Pure Food Drive with Clean Bacon

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Panera Bread Company is leaving no stone unturned to fulfill its pledge of prohibiting an extensive list of additives from its menu by the end of this year.

The company has taken another step in this direction by announcing that it will be serving only clean bacon on its sandwiches and salads, free from artificial preservatives, flavors, sweeteners and colors, as barred by the company's so-called "No No List" of ingredients.

Panera will also source its bacon from pigs that comply with its animal welfare standards for reduced confinement and antibiotics. Panera's clean bacon will be made with only six ingredients – pork, water, sea salt, sugar, celery powder and thyme extract.

In 2015, Panera served 2 million pounds, or over 115 million slices, of bacon. Notably, the company had spent the past year working with suppliers to get rid of artificial nitrates and preservatives from bacon.

Commitment to Clean Food

Under its Panera 2.0 program, the company expects to remove all artificial ingredients, including colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners, from food items across its 2000 bakeries/cafes by 2016-end.

With the rollout of its new bacon, Panera has successfully removed artificial ingredients from nearly 95% of its food items, with just a few bakery items left in its workings. Presently all forms of meat served at Panera are clean by its No No List standards.

Recently, the company upgraded its kids’ menu, thereby throwing a challenge to other players in the industry and all food manufacturers who cater to the same.

Also, this June, Panera declared that it will give up using non-natural flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and colors from synthetic sources in its Panera at Home (which focuses on selling Panera branded products to other retailers) portfolio of nearly 50 grocery products by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, in January, the company said that it has removed all artificial ingredients from its soup items in all restaurants in the U.S.

With this transparency regarding ingredients in its practice, the company is trying to provide consumers with quick and healthy meal ideas that are less dependent on synthetic preservatives.

Bottom Line

At a time when the restaurant industry is facing a slowdown, food companies are adapting to changing consumer preference, and trying to appeal to more health-conscious eaters by altering their food lineup.

Companies like McDonald's Corp. (MCD - Free Report) and The Wendy's Company (WEN - Free Report) , have pledged to shift completely to cage-free eggs and use chicken raised without antibiotics. Additionally, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (CMG - Free Report) uses genetically modified organism (GMO)-free ingredients in its food items.

However, Panera has stolen much of the spotlight from its competitors and is leading the race of offering fresh and additive-free foods.

By becoming the first national chain to introduce so-called clean bacon, Panera is once again trying to entice customers looking for less-processed alternatives in order to maintain its popularity among health-conscious customers.

Panera currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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