Panera Promotes Transparency With New Marketing Campaign

'Food As It Should Be' Boasts Clean Menu Items

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Panera Bread is hopping on the clean-eating bandwagon with the official launch of the "Food As It Should Be" marketing campaign today.

The initiative was first introduced in May with a "No no list" of artificial ingredients Panera will stop using by 2016. That was followed by CEO Ron Shaich's letter in the Times this weekend highlighting his commitment to healthier ingredients.

Panera sees the positioning as a point of difference with rivals. "A lot of people have great tasting soups and salads and sandwiches, so for us it has to be good for you as well," said Christopher Hollander, the chain's head of marketing.

As of now, 85% to 90% of Panera's ingredients are natural, and the company is on track for the entire menu to be "clean" by the end of next year, while keeping the same price points.

"I think we've done a phenomenal job, our supply chain guys and our staff, have done a great job of finding unique solutions," Mr. Hollander said. "At this point we certainly don't plan on passing the costs to our consumers, so we're trying to manage it all. It really is ingredient to ingredient – some costs less, some costs more."

The initial campaign, which will run from now until the end of summer, will be backed with more than $25 million of the chain's estimated $90 million annual media budget, Mr. Hollander said. This is an increase of approximately 21% from last year's $71.8 million spent on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

The "Food As It Should Be" campaign was created by Anomaly and includes digital and display content, billboards, radio advertising, national TV and cinema spots.

"We're on a bit of a mission. We're not food activists, we're more like food positivists, and we see the role healthy food can have in your life," said Jason Deland, co-founder of Anomaly. "It's not just heathy eating ... it's also who you're with, what you're doing, what you're sharing in having a healthy relationship with food."

Other companies, including General Mills, Kraft, PepsiCo and Chipotle are pledging to become more health conscious, but Mary Chapman, senior director-product innovation at Technomic, thinks Panera's changes will only boost sales.

"They already have a pretty sizable market share, and they're already pretty well esteemed, but I think as more consumers care about transparency, it absolutely will have positive impact on perceptions," Ms. Chapman said.

On Wednesday, Panera will open one of its kitchens to the public for customers to learn and test out some of the new ingredients. The event will take place from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M at 101 Wooster New York.

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