Panera seems to get it. Somewhere a light bulb has been lit. Their food policy director, Sara Burnett, puts it well when she says, “We know that guests are increasingly seeking plant-based proteins for personal health reasons and/or to reduce their environmental impact. To that end, we have been adding plant-based proteins like edamame and organic quinoa to our pantry of ingredients.”
Touting plant-based protein at a mainstream restaurant chain is a big deal. “It’s the first national chain that I’m aware of that’s ever said that,” said Josh Balk, senior food policy director for the Humane Society of the United States. “It’s hugely significant.” The fact that Panera has come forward and made a statement about plant-based protein means we’ll likely soon see other chains added to the list. “Plant-based is the next big issue,” Balk said. “We’re at a tipping-point for plant-based foods.”
It’s smart business. More and more chains are expanding their vegetarian options and Panera wants to stay ahead of the curve. Plant-based diets are definitely the trend. This comes on the heels of the company’s announcement last year when it committed to “clean ingredients,” meaning no artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, and preservatives.