By now, thanks to menu labeling laws in states like New York and California, slapping a calorie count on menuboards is old hat for many brands. But one brand has taken it a leap further.
Last month, Pret A Manger—a sandwich chain with stores in markets like New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—began adding saturated fat, sugar, and sodium levels to its product labels both in store and online.
The brand has always listed nutritionals on its website and included calorie counts on its labels for the past few years (even though, in markets outside of New York, it isn’t required by law to do so), but its push to include these nutritional levels gives the brand greater transparency, says Martin Bates, president of Pret U.S.
“People are getting more discerning—and our customers are certainly getting more discerning—and they want to know more,” he says. “We’ve always posted nutritionals on our website, so we just wanted to dig a bit deeper to allow our customers to make better-informed choices.”
While calorie labels are a good start for every restaurant chain, Bates says these don’t always paint the whole picture, noting that there are such things as good and bad calories and fat.
“It’s about telling a fuller story,” he says, “about giving people the choice in their everyday diet and lifestyle.”
This recent move is most heavily motivated by two factors. First, diners are outright requesting more information about the food they’re consuming.
Bates points to the increase in childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes as factors that are encouraging more consumers to become knowledgeable about what and how they’re eating.
Listing these nutrition counts on labels also saves consumers time, since they no longer have to pull up the brand’s website to see how many grams of sodium is in a Chicken Mozzarella baguette, for example (1,300 grams).
The second major motivator is that menu labeling falls in line with what the company is all about: providing natural, preservative-free, and healthy food to its consumers.
“We try and be as aware and conscious of what people want and be sensible as to offering something people can enjoy without it affecting their health in a negative way.”
And while the new menu labels will shed more light on what consumers are taking in when they dine on the brands fresh-made-every-day food, Bates says the labels don’t necessarily force customers to eat healthier options.
“They can treat themselves if they want, but if they’re watching key nutritionals, then they’re better informed,” he says.
Bates says, following on the heels of moves like New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban, he expects full menu labeling to eventually become legislation that every chain will have to deal with.
Until then, the brand plans to continue on the healthy path by offering consumers additional variety, such as vegan, low-calorie, and low-sodium choices.
“We don’t get it right all the time, but we try,” Bates says. “We’re quite aspirational and we’re eager to please our fanbase.”
By Mary Avant
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