Panera wants you to know exactly what’s in your bread

KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

NEW YORK — Panera is betting that customers want to know more about what’s in their food.

The restaurant chain announced on Tuesday that it has started identifying the amount of whole grain per serving, as well as the overall percentage of whole grain, on all of their whole-grain bread.

The strategy anticipates that health-conscious consumers will shop more at Panera if they have a better idea of what they’re eating and an easier way to incorporate healthy foods into their diets.

“We want more informed consumers, because more informed consumers create demand for products that we want to sell,” said Sara Burnett, the company’s director of wellness. “We’re not necessarily anticipating some huge shift. But [we’re] always hopeful.”

The company has been quietly adding the new labels to shelves since early September.

In 2016, the company finished phasing out artificial ingredients from its menu. Last year, Panera began disclosing the amount of added sugar and calories in its fountain drinks, and it introduced a new line of drinks with lower sugar and no artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors or preservatives. Panera observed that customers were choosing healthier drinks.

“We are not the food police,” CEO Blaine Hurst told CNN Business. “Our job is to give you viable options and choices.”

In addition to announcing the new labels, Panera on Tuesday launched a new series of videos about the food industry, featuring chef Marcus Samuelsson, actor Rainn Wilson and others.

“So often the labels that we see on our food, the stories we hear about the food, even the titles of some of the food we eat … can be misleading,” Hurst said.

For example, most people are unaware of the subtle difference between whole grain and multigrain. Whole grain refers to the the entire wheat grain kernel. Multigrain means more than one type of grain, but doesn’t mean that any of those grains are whole. To be considered whole grain, bread has to be made with at least 50% whole grains, Hurst said.

People who eat at least three servings a day of whole grains could live longer, according to some medical studies.

This fall, the company unveiled a new 55% whole grain loaf. Now, Panera has six whole-grain bread options.

Panera is the latest restaurant to highlight its commitment to healthier food.

In September, Chipotle (CPG) launched a marketing campaign highlighting the ingredients it uses to make every order. The company launched an Instagram account designed to teach customers about each of the 51 ingredients used to make Chipotle orders.

Last month, McDonald’s (MCD) announced that it is removing artificial additives from its seven classic burgers. Pizza Hut and Taco Bell committed to making the change in 2015.