Panera is the first restaurant brand to label climate-friendly meals

Panera to be the first national chain to roll out climate-friendly "Cool Food Meal" labels

Panera Bread will start letting customers know if their meal has a low impact on the environment.

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In a collaboration with the World Resources Institute, Panera, owned by JAB holding company, will be the first national chain to roll out climate-friendly “Cool Food Meal” labels on Iitems with low greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of Panera entrees will feature this badge, including everything from the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt to the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad and Broccoli Cheddar Soup, in adiditon to its plant-based options.

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Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt (Credit: Panera)

Broccoli Cheddar Soup (Credit: Panera)

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Carbon-friendly plates are contingent on the type of ingredients used as well as the quantity. Dishes that qualify fall under a maximum threshold of greenhouse gas emissions in order to stay below the daily carbon footprint. The daily allowance for breakfast items is 3.59 kg carbon equivalence per portion while the threshold for lunch and dinner entrees are 5.38 kg of carbon equivalence. However, Panera has opted for “Cool Food Meal” labels instead of numbers to educate guests on sustainable options and the correlation between their meals and the climate.

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“Those numbers have no reference point yet,” VP, Food Values, Sustainability and Public Affairs at Panera Bread Sara Burnett told FOX Business. “Instead of putting another number on our menu  panel, we are using ‘Cool Food’ labels as a stamp of approval.”

Panera, a 2,300 unit franchise across the US and Canada, has historically been the first-mover in consumer and labeling transparency. A decade ago, Panera became the first national chain to label calories on its menu, which ultimately turned into a national standard. As the largest fast-casual dining franchise, its efforts to push sustainability are sure to have a ripple effect throughout the industry.

“We were the first national brand to be transparent on calories, and now we are the first national brand to be transparent on our climate footprint,” Panera Bread CEO Niren Chaudhary told Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo. “When we disclosed that [calories], it became an industry standard. We are hoping that carbon footprint disclosure will also become an industry standard.”

The demand for environmental products is growing, with 39 percent of Americans wanting to eat more plant-based foods. And the restaurant industry is not alone in pushing the envelope of change.

Panera’s nudge to the food industry comes after Amazon launched its new carbon friendly label as part of its Climate Pledge Friendly campaign. Certain products, from grocery to household to fashion and electronics, that meet one of the 19 certifications for sustainability will be clearly labeled in the shopping results.

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And with nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions derived from food production, dining facilities will be at the forefront of leading consumers to reduce pressure on the environment.

“What we know about consumers is your impact on the climate and climate change is no longer a niche green issue, leaving this as something that has broad awareness and interest,” Burnett said. “This is something that isn’t just one generation or one type of customer interest. It’s of interest across all demographics.”

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