- Panera plans to have at least half of its menu be made up of plant-based offerings, CEO Niren Chaudhary told Business Insider.
- The shift is being driven by customers who are attempting to eat less meat, due to concerns tied to animal welfare, nutrition, and climate change.
- “Consumers are more and more knowledgeable,” about climate change, said Panera’s vice president of wellness and food policy Sara Burnett. “I think in an earlier phase than plant-based, but I think that that’s actually going to become a bigger motivation for consumers over time.”
- Currently, 25% of Panera’s menu items is meat-free.
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Panera wants half of its menu to be plant-based, as customers ditch meat and climate change molds strategy.
CEO Niren Chaudhary told Business Insider that, over the next several years, Panera plans to have at least 50% of its menu be made up of plant-based offerings. Chaudhary said the company plans to have plant-based innovation in every category in 2021.
“We already have strong credentials on plant-based,” Chaudhary said in an interview on Thursday. “25% of our menu items are plant-based. With just one customisation, 60% of our menu is plant-based.”
Chaudhary said that “flexitarian” customers are increasingly seeking out plant-based menu items and cutting back on the amount of meat they eat, driven by nutrition, animal welfare, and concerns regarding climate change and sustainability.
“Consumers are more and more knowledgeable,” about climate change, said Panera’s vice president of wellness and food policy Sara Burnett. “I think in an earlier phase than plant-based, but I think that that’s actually going to become a bigger motivation for consumers over time.”
According to Burnett, Panera has examined factors such as recycling, water, and electricity consumption, and packaging when it considers how to make a positive impact on the environment. However, Burnett says, Panera believes the biggest impact the company can have on climate change is through its food and the ingredients it sources.
Part of this is by minimising waste, for both ethical and economic reasons. Every day, Panera donates unsold bread and baked goods at the end of business.
“On the flip side, it’s actually about saying, ok, what do we fill our pantry with?” Burnett said. “What’s the impact of these ingredients?”
Plant-based menu items have a positive impact, as meat production accounts for a significant amount of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Meat prices are not a fair price for the amount of land, water, [and] carbon that we are impacting in order to have our 300 grams of protein a week,” Maria Lettini, executive director of the investor group Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return Initiative, told Insider earlier this year. “It’s absolutely unsustainable and we need to find a fair price.”
“We’re really thinking about how do our ingredients, one, tastes great? … Two, then how do they have a positive effect on people and planet?” Burnett said.
Chaudhary, who joined Panera after working as chief operating officer and president at JAB Holding-sister brand Krispy Kreme in May 2019, said that a shift towards more plant-based menu items is part of a wider pivot at Panera. After an era marked in part by the chain removing artificial flavours, Panera now plans to emphasise food positivity through menu items like its Ten Vegetable Soup and its new grain bowl menu.
“It’s more about better for you, and better for the world, and better for the environment, and better for animals,” Chaudhary said. “I think consumers are recognising that – mostly the younger consumers, they feel more accountable for that.”
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