Overconsumption of added sugar is the latest issue to preoccupy the food industry. On the heels of the launch of KIND Healthy Snacks’ Fruit Bites, for which the brand filled New York City’s Times Square with over 45,000 pounds of sugar in a bid to draw attention to the 4.7 billion pounds of sugar consumed by children each year, Panera Bread has announced a new nutrition education scheme that will put the ‘sweet facts’ about its products right into the hands of consumers.
A recent national survey commissioned by Panera revealed that 99 percent of Americans don’t know the amount of sugar in a 20 fl. oz. serving of standard cola, with 83 percent underestimating the amount. To better support and inform consumers, the company will begin sharing nutritional information directly on fountain beverage cups. Panera’s new ‘sweet facts’ fountain beverage cup, which launches this week, will list the calories and added sugar in each of its six new craft drinks, as well as regular cola.
“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,” said Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and CEO of Panera Bread. “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 began displaying added sugar and calories in fountain drinks on in-café signage at point of pour in March 2017 as part of its progressive effort to provide healthier options and greater transparency to its customers. With the initial launch of new craft beverages and signage, Panera has already seen an eight percent shift from soda toward medium and lightly sweetened beverages. The addition of the new ‘sweet facts’ cup is the next logical step in helping consumers make informed choices. The cup is currently available in eight markets and will roll out nationwide to complement the national availability of Panera’s 100 percent clean craft beverages, made with no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, flavors or colors from artificial sources.
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“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 at Panera Bread. “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.”
“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, PhD., co-founder and president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “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.”