On April 5th, restaurant chain Panera Bread unveiled a new line of low-sugar and sugar-free drinks as well as a chart detailing information about the calorie sugar content of all of their self-serve drinks.
In a recent ad that appeared in the Washington Post, Panera Bread founder and CEO Ron Shaich writes: “our goal is not to dictate what you drink, it’s to be transparent and provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice.”
The chart places their drinks on a range of unsweetened to fully sweetened, beginning with iced black tea and the new plum ginger hibiscus tea and ending with regular soft drinks.
The “Medium Sweetened” tier of drinks below soft drinks contain up to 34 grams of sugar, less than half as many as the potential 75 grams of regular soft drinks, while the “Lightly Sweetened” tier of drinks between “Medium Sweetened” and “Unsweetened” tiers contains 0 grams of sugar and is only sweetened through the fruit juice base of the drinks. Teaspoons of sugar are shown on the illustrated cups to provide an easy and visual point of reference for the sugar content of each drink type.
Panera Bread has become one of the first major restaurant chains to voluntarily display the sugar and calorie content of drinks. While a recent FDA regulation requires prepackaged foods and beverages to display health information including sugar content in a special nutrition information box, there is no similar regulation for restaurants or fast-food chains.
Despite the lack of restrictions on restaurants to display health information about drinks, Panera Bread calls for competing companies to follow the same practice in the aforementioned ad:
“[…] we challenge the beverage and restaurant industries to join us in this effort,” writes Shaich. “Whether you choose soda or lemonade, you deserve to know what’s in your cup and how it affects your health.”
The new “clean” drinks contain no preservatives or artificial sweeteners and include agave lemonade, plum ginger hibiscus tea as well as green tea. The signs were put on display in each of the over 2,000 Panera Bread locations across the country.