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Food Service Industry Updates

Panera Bread Just Achieved an Industry First


Panera Bread has achieved a first in the U.S. foodservice industry: It is the initial national restaurant chain to label climate-friendly “Cool Food Meals” on its menu — those meals that have a low impact on the climate.

St. Louis-based Panera partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI), a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainability and climate change, on the initiative.

Panera said that more than half of its entrees are Cool Food Meals, including the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt, 10 Vegetable Soup, Fuji Apple Chicken Salad and Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Just like recommended calories per day, WRI has established a maximum recommended daily carbon footprint for a person’s diet, which is 38% smaller than the current average. This is in line with what WRI research finds is needed by 2030 to help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, according to Panera.

Citing findings from Pew Research, Panera said that six in 10 Americans say they have seen impacts from climate change in their own communities, but many don’t know what they can do to help. With about 25% of greenhouse gases created from food production, Panera said that what people choose to eat can help make a difference.

“We are passionate about keeping the customer at the heart of everything we do, and that includes giving our guests choices to lower their impact on climate change through the food they eat in our bakery-cafes,” said Niren Chaudhary, Panera’s CEO. “With 55% of Panera entrees certified as Cool Food Meals, our guests have many options for food with a lower carbon footprint, from salads to soups to sandwiches. Understanding the impact of what we eat on the environment is one way we can all take a small step toward combatting climate change. So as a food company, we feel a strong responsibility to share this information and empower our guests to help make a difference.”

Sara Burnett, Panera’s vice president of food values, sustainability and public affairs, said that by labeling Cool Food Meal menu items, Panera hopes to educate its guests on sustainable options and help them understand the correlation between their meals and the climate.

“While many consumers are more aware of solutions such as driving less and recycling, the impact of your plate is real and just as important,” she added.

Daniel Vennard, director of sustainable diets at WRI, said the science is clear that climate change can’t be stopped without people changing what they eat.

“But that doesn’t mean that eating for the planet has to be boring,” he added. “Cool Food Meals have a low impact on the climate. This new certification is about spotlighting the dishes that help people build climate-friendly lifestyles.”

Panera Bread operates 2,118 bakery-cafes in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada.