On April 4, fast-casual chain Panera Bread will roll out its biggest menu overhaul to date with 20 updates. The anticipated overhaul will feature nine new dishes and 12 new recipes for classic menu items. Panera notes that these changes were made to streamline operations. 

Among the additions are four sandwiches, each heavy on animal products, including the Toasted Italiano, Chicken Bacon Rancher, Ciabatta Cheesesteak, and the Tomato Basil BLT.


The next four new items are all salads: the Mediterranean Chicken Greens with Grains, Southwest Chicken Ranch, Balsamic Chicken Greens with Grains, and Ranch Cobb. While Panera had the opportunity to focus on plant-based fare, just like its new sandwiches, Panera packed each of the four new salads with animal products.

Rounding out the lineup is the Bacon Mac & Cheese, an item that steers clear of plants entirely.

“We are getting back to Panera at its best with these menu updates that are centered completely on our guests and what they love about us,” Alicia Mowder, SVP of Product Strategy & Insights, Panera Bread, said in a statement. 

“We’ve listened to thousands of guests on our path to unveiling more than 20 new or enhanced menu items and are thrilled to bring these products to Panera bakery-cafés nationwide,” Mowder said. 

Panera breaks its plant-based promise

Panera’s meat-heavy menu overhaul is a stark departure from its previous plant-based plans. Just three years ago, the company announced ambitious goals to become climate-positive by 2050, aiming to reduce its carbon footprint and prioritize environmentally friendly food choices.

As part of these commitments, Panera pledged to increase the percentage of its “Cool Food Meals” to 60 percent of its entrées by 2025, alongside transitioning to 100-percent circular, reusable, recyclable, and compostable packaging.


Furthermore, the company had announced plans to serve 50-percent plant-based options, defined as items featuring mainly grains, fruits, or vegetables with small portions of dairy and eggs but no meat proteins.

However, the recent menu overhaul seems to diverge from these earlier sustainability goals, with a renewed focus on chicken, bacon, steak, cheese, and other animal products. 

“Climate change is one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time, and we must act now for our planet. We embrace the responsibility to take immediate and relentless action to create positive change and hope that our industry will follow us,” Niren Chaudhary, Panera’s former CEO, previously said in a statement. 

“We are sharing our vision for a climate positive future to inspire both our industry and our supply chain partners to take urgent, decisive, and clear action,” Chaudhary said in 2021. 

Panera also recently removed the Ten Vegetable Soup from its permanent menu, slimming down its already limited selection of vegan items

The new era of Panera

The chain is referring to its menu overhaul, which also features more items under $10, as “the new era at Panera.” 

“Panera’s New Era is incredibly exciting, not only for our guests, but also our associates, who will be able to renew their focus on our core menu and serve our guests more efficiently with enhanced portions and better value,” Debbie Roberts, Chief Operating Officer, Panera Bread, said in a statement. “We are eager to get back to our roots within these core categories and unveil these delicious new menu innovations, all while providing an exceptional guest experience.” 

With its choice to focus on animal-heavy fare, this era is sure to be one that serves patrons foods that have a negative impact on human and planetary health. 


Panera’s menu update will coincide with the start of Earth Month (April), a time when consumers and businesses focus on sustainability and improving their ecological practices. However, Panera is instead choosing to refocus its menu on meat and dairy, which are widely documented for their negative impact on the environment.

These days, there is no hiding that the production of meat and dairy contributes substantially to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution, making plant-based alternatives a more sustainable choice for environmentally conscious consumers. 

When it comes to human health, numerous studies have found links between the consumption of animal products and chronic diseases. Four of the nine new menu items (nearly 50 percent) at Panera feature bacon which, as a processed meat, has been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and dementia. 

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