Panera puts positive climate on the menu: why others should follow

Environmental leadership and healthier food help them attract customers and investors

In November, Panera Brands, parent company of Panera Bread, announced that it filing of an initial public offering, after four years of private ownership by JAB Holding. Part of the appeal of this company is its commitment to become ‘climate positive’ by 2050 and to ‘raise, serve and eat foods that are good and good for you’. Other chains should take note and embrace the movement towards more sustainable and healthy food.

As the restaurant industry strives to find a workforce and keep its customers happy, Panera has understood that its future is to meet and exceed the changing demands of its core customers: millennials and consumers. generation Z.

Veteran restaurateur Danny Meyer, who invests in Panera, is committed not only to hospitality, but also to more noble causes such as treating employees well and eco-friendly. So it’s no surprise that he was drawn to Panera Bread, which received high marks for its leadership in responsible practices that actually improve the environment. The commitment from Meyer and his Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) shows that doing the right thing can help companies attract both customers and investors. The rest of the restaurant industry is far behind on this front and can learn a lot from Panera’s example.

I’ve been saying for some time that the future is brighter for companies that show leadership in health and social. At the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) annual meeting last January, packaged food companies showcased their line of better-for-you products; and health and wellness was a hot topic for the first time. It has shown that food companies know that healthier choices will attract customers, especially as the pandemic emerges, and they see it as a selling point for attracting investment.

The environment is another major health issue, especially with the 140 million Millennials and Gen Z consumer groups increasingly calling on businesses to respect the planet in order to earn their loyalty and money. . A Sustainable Market Share Index ™ Study published by the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business shows that although sustainable consumer packaged products only represent 16.8% of dollar sales, they account for over 50% of growth, more than 7 times faster than products not marketed as durable. Investors, including groups like Meyer’s, understand this and will invest their money in companies whose environmental practices retain these huge blocks of buyers.

Panera’s most recent Corporate Responsibility Report shows that it is committed to respecting the planet with its employees and communities. In October 2021, the company announced its goal of become positive climate, removing more carbon than the restaurant chain emits, by 2050. It is the first casual restaurant chain to do so. Panera follows United Nations guidelines for sustainable development and has already reduced its emissions by 15% per square foot, and plans a further 15% reduction by next year. “Cool Food Meals” (low carbon options) are a growing category in its menus; two thirds of its packaging is now reusable, recyclable and compostable; green energy powers at least 50% of company-owned facilities and 60% of menu items can be customized to be plant-based.

Panera has also been a leader in making its healthier products. A case study conducted by Georgetown University’s Portion Balance Coalition demonstrated how, in 2019, Panera reduced the sugar in its drinks and relaunched its baked goods line with smaller portions. The items sold well and supported the merits of its “stealth health” approach.

Recognizing these efforts, Fast Company named Panera Bread # 2 in its list of the most innovative restaurant companies for 2021. Interest from Meyer and his investment company shows that Panera will benefit in tangible form from its commitment to the health of customers. and the environment.

Other restaurant chains – many of which are operated by operators – will say that is impossible; that they just want to give consumers the cheap, filling foods they want and can afford. I understand these pressures, but there is still a lot to learn from Panera’s playbook. Here are some strategies other chains can consider.

  • Make the industry’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Food production is reported to contribute up to 37 percent of all global greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the restaurant and foodservice sector is a big enough player to shake things up, with sales in 2021 expected to reach $ 789 billion. Panera shows that it can be done.
  • Take your customers’ requests into account. Millennials and Generation Z care about health and the planet. Ignoring them is a recipe for long-term failure, as reputations tarnished today by irresponsible practices will be difficult to recover in the future.
  • Take action before change is forced on you. With more than a third of GHGs attributed to food production, food manufacturers and restaurants are the target of activists, consumers and regulators. Restaurant chains would be wise to get ahead of this bus rather than go under it.

Will other restaurant chains consider following Panera’s lead and adopting sustainable practices – in sourcing, production, packaging and other areas? This should be important to them, because it matters more and more to the people who determine whether they survive: their customers and their investors.

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