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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Panera Is More Health-Conscious Than the FDA

Consumer demand and competition drove Panera to say "no-no" to 100 FDA approved ingredients.

Attention “You Pick Two” Lovers: Panera Bread has eliminated food additives from their ingredients.

Cleaning Up the Kitchen

That’s right. Your favorite lunch spot, and mine, will no longer serve up soups that add in MSG, salads with sodium benzoate dressing, or bromated-flour-baked goods. Panera Bread has banned these and roughly one hundred other substances from their menus.

What led Panera to make this decision?

No regulation forced them. They simply read the market, listened to their customers, and made the easy decision.

The USDA or FDA didn’t concoct a rule restricting companies from selling salatrim-laced pastries. Panera executives aren’t allergic to money, and organic foods are an average of 47 percent more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. With 8.3 million customers per week, Panera certainly isn’t hurting for business. Yet they’ve made the costly decision to replace 122 “no-no” ingredients with “clean, simple, better ingredients in 450 menu items.

You may be thinking, duh, that junk doesn’t belong in my food. And you might be right, but why now?

Today’s anti-capitalists like to groan about slimeball businesses and callous corporations. They say big business doesn’t care about the little guy.

If that’s true, then we wouldn’t expect a large company to take steps to protect their customers from the same substances that the government is happy to let citizens ingest.

And with 2015 revenues of over $2.5 billion, Panera Bread is no mom-and-pop shop.

All the Incentives They Needed

They made this call, not because government regulation forced them; no clipboard-carrying inspector threw the book at them. They simply read the market, listened to their customers, and made the easy decision (though not so simple task) of cleaning up the ingredients in their cookbooks.

Basic girls, soccer moms, beanie-wearing hipsters, and everyone else who loves to chow down on bread bowls of piping-hot broccoli cheddar soup demand ingredients they can read and pronounce.

In Singapore, it takes only takes three days to open a business.

But it’s not only about the customers. Competition drives businesses to innovate, make changes, and lead the charge. A customer with no other lunch options doesn’t have the same power as one with alternatives like Jason’s Deli, Chipotle, and the Whole Foods salad bar. To stay ahead of their competitors and continue growing, Panera understands that they must act in the best interests of their customers.

Imagine how many more incentives large companies would have if red tape wasn’t preventing more entrepreneurs from entering the market.

We all have that friend who is an amazing cook. If he or she could just get past all the licensing, permits, and hoop-jumping, they might be unstoppable in the restaurant industry. Their success is not outside the realm of possibilities. Or at least it doesn’t have to be.

In Singapore, it takes only takes three days to open a business. What if Nic and Travis could open their pizza joint by Saturday?

Really, Though

We have more to be annoyed by and fearful of from Uncle Sam’s bureaucratic nonsense than we do of mustache-twirling tycoons and their diabolical schemes to … fill our bellies full of all-natural, preservative-free, spinach and artichoke breakfast soufflés (my favorite!).

So, a tip of the beanie to you, Panera Bread, for using common sense, giving customers what they want, and for not needing a centralized authority to make you do it.

  • Marianne March was a Social Media Manager at FEE, as well as a contributing author. In 2016, Marianne graduated summa cum laude from Georgia State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Planning and Economic Development and a minor in Economics. Prior to joining FEE, Marianne worked for the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Marianne is passionate about philanthropy, music, and art. In her free time you can find Marianne at a rock concert, sunning by the pool, or listening to a podcast.