Industry News | August 24, 2017 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Here's Why Panera is Now Posting Sugar Counts on Cups

Panera continues to invest in beverage transparency. flickr: Mike Mozart
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Panera Bread wasn’t going to wait for legislation to catch up. The fast casual chain commissioned its own study and announced what it’s calling the company’s “next wave of transparency” on Wednesday. Starting this week, Panera will roll out its new “sweet facts” fountain beverage cups that list the calories and added sugar in each of its new six craft beverages, as well as regular cola.

The move is an added step from the March decision to declare added sugar and calorie counties in fountain beverages on in-café signage. In doing so, Panera became the first major chain to list the calories and added sugars of its fountain beverages at all 2,100 or so U.S. locations. The company said in a statement that it saw an 8 percent shift toward increased consumption of medium and lightly sweetened beverages as a result.

Currently, the new cup is available in eight markets and will eventually roll out nationwide.

“We believe it’s up to companies to take the lead on transparency, not wait for legislation. Earlier this year we became the first national restaurant company to post both calories and added sugar at the point of pour, but we quickly saw that we could—and should—do more,” Ron Shaich, Panera’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. “With the combination of more information and better options available, we’re seeing our guests begin to trade from fountain soft drinks to our new clean beverages.”

Panera conducted a survey with KRC Research August 7–8 via online research of 1,092 members from the general population, ages 18-plus. The results presented Panera with a convincing path forward. An eye-opening 99 percent of people said they do not know the amount of added sugar in a 20-ounce serving of standard cola, and 83 percent underestimated the amount. The second fact is a bit more telling, given that most Americans understand the high sugar count in soft drinks: the study simply showed they don’t quite know the full extent.

“What’s worse than the amounts of added sugar found in traditional fountain beverages is that guests aren’t even aware of it,” said Sara Burnett, director of wellness, Panera Bread, in a statement. “We want to allow guests to make informed choices relative to beverages. Guests have the right to know they could be drinking 17 teaspoons of added sugar per 20 ounces depending on the beverage choice they make. That’s more than the daily USDA guidelines. We want to give guests better information and more options.”

Panera’s craft beverages offer a broader range of clean options, from medium sweetened to zero grams of added sugar, the company said.

They are:

  • Iced Black Tea and Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea are unsweetened, with zero grams added sugar
  • Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca is lightly sweetened with fruit juice, with zero grams added sugar
  • Passion Papaya Green Tea, Blood Orange Lemonade and Agave Lemonade contain less than 35 grams of added sugar per 20-fl.-ounce cup

“Kudos to Panera for informing its customers of the added-sugars content of its beverages, and for doing it in a convenient, understandable way,” said Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a statement. “The Food and Drug Administration insists that labels list added sugars in terms of grams, which few Americans understand. Panera is disclosing added sugars in terms of teaspoons, which everyone understands. That’s the latest thing that Panera has done to earn its reputation of being arguably the nation’s most responsible chain restaurant.”