Panera Nixing Artificial Additives In New “Clean Bacon”

Image courtesy of Panera

In its continuing quest against artificial additives, Panera Bread says it’s made some recent changes to its bacon. Before you freak out, company executives want you to know it’ll still taste “bacon-y.” Because we all know there’s nothing worse than un-bacon-y bacon.

Panera is on a mission to strike a long list of artificial ingredients from its menu entirely by the end of the year, and now it’s cured pork’s turn to undergo a few changes. But again, Sara Burnett, director of food police and wellness, assures CNBC that its bacon is smoky, slaty, and “bacon-y.”

“We cleaned out some of the junk,” Burnett told Bloomberg.

Here’s what the new “clean bacon” will entail:

• No artificial additives used in the curing process — celery powder will be used as a natural curing agent instead of things like sodium nitrite, sodium phosphate, and sodium erythorbate.
• No liquid smoke or artificial flavor enhancements; instead, Panera says it’s using extra applewood smoke.
• The bacon is herb-brined in sea salt, sugar, and thyme extract (inspired by a Thanksgiving turkey, the company says).
• 25% thicker bacon that’s not stored in a refrigerator, but is taken out of the oven and served at room temperature for maximum crispiness.
• Sourced with animal welfare in mind: Panera says its bacon has been sourced from pigs raised on a vegetarian diet, without antibiotics or gestation crates for pregnant sows since 2015.

“Clean bacon is an example of how you can amplify when you simplify,” said Panera founder and CEO Ron Shaich in a statement. “By removing artificial additives, we made a switch to better ingredients, better texture and, ultimately, better flavor. We’re not just offering clean bacon; it’s bacon that has been elevated in every way.”

The bacon changes bring Panera closer to its goal of an additive-free menu: the only thing left is to tweak some things in the bakery section before the end of the year, Burnett told CNBC.

“Then we can stop calling it clean food and just call it food again,” said Dan Kish, Panera’s head chef.

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