Panera Bread, a pioneer in serving “clean” restaurant food, has started a consulting service to help other chains remove artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and colors from menus.
The bakery and cafe chain’s “clean consultant” services include helping clients find ways to source healthier and more natural ingredients and to improve and differentiate menus, Panera said on Monday.
“We want to help industry peers devise strategies that prioritize clean across their whole menu, rather than focusing on a single ingredient or product,” said Sara Burnett, Panera’s director of wellness and food policy.
She said Panera, which competes with Chipotle Mexican Grill and other limited-service chains, has removed more than 150 ingredients from its food. On Monday it also announced its latest retooled product — “clean” chicken wing sauce.
Panera founder and Chairman Ron Shaich said industry peers had approached the company for help in cleaning up their menus.
“We thought it was time to formalize that advice,” he said.
The service would help end “clean washing,” in which companies reformulate a product such as chicken nuggets to be more natural and then serve it with dipping sauces made from unnatural or unhealthy ingredients, Shaich said.
Panera did not say how many consultants it would hire or how many clients had signed up for the service.
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Panera has led other public health efforts ranging from disclosing calorie counts on menus to curbing purchases of meats raised with medically important antibiotics.