Panera Bread’s Soups Now Free of Artificial Colors, Preservatives, Sweeteners

Panera Bread’s Soups Now Free of Artificial Colors, Preservatives, Sweeteners
Food Ingredients

Panera Bread announced recently that its entire soup menu is now free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives.

There are 10 regular soups on Panera’s menu, and it also offers seasonal specials like Turkey Chili and Autumn Squash. Some 200 million Panera soups are ladled out each year, accounting for about 25% of annual sales, or $672 million. About 66 million servings of the company’s highly popular broccoli cheddar soup are served every year.

The chain, which boasts 1,900 restaurants across the United States, can now officially say its soup offerings are “clean.”

“When you look at the difference, the new soups are made from things you would make soup out of at home,” explained Panera Bread’s head chef Dan Kish. [1]

“It was about moving away from things such as vegetable oil to cook the onions and broccoli to simply using butter to make the broccoli and cheddar soup.”

One of the things that is now missing from the broccoli and cheddar soup is sodium phosphate, a key ingredient in the cheddar cheese. Panera and its supplier came up with a new cheddar cheese without the additive.

Like countless other dangerous additives, sodium phosphate is classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as generally regarded as safe, but having too much of it in your diet can result in an imbalance between phosphorus and calcium in the body, increasing in an elevated risk of osteoporosis.

Sodium phosphate is especially unhealthy for people with kidney problems. The body struggles to absorb phosphates found naturally in foods, but the inorganic forms of phosphates used in additives are better absorbed and can damage blood vessels in people with kidney disease.

In addition, people who eat too many phosphates often have trouble absorbing vital nutrients like iron, calcium, and magnesium. This can have a laxative effect, and make it hard for the body to absorb other nutrients. [2]

Panera Bread actually has an official “No No List” consisting of 150 ingredients that have been or are being pulled from the chain’s foods. The company says all of the items on the list will be removed by the end of 2016.

Some of the items on the “No No List” are autolyzed yeast extract (which is similar to MSG), hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, and maltodextrin, in addition to the sodium phosphate.

Hydrolyzed soy protein is a protein made from soy that’s often chemically-altered to produce a stronger flavor. It is not found in nature, and like sodium phosphate, the FDA says it’s all good. But hydrolyzed soy protein provides no significant health benefits, and can cause food allergies. Plus, it is derived from GMOs, as is hydrolyzed corn protein. [3]

Panera has made several other, smaller changes, as well, such as switching from bleached flour to unbleached flour.

“I want [our customers] to understand and feel confident in the ingredients that go into those soups,” Dan Kish, Panera Bread’s head chef, said in a statement. “We’ve long been advocates of transparency — providing full ingredient information online — and with these new recipes we have even more to be proud of today.”


[1] The Street

[2] SF Gate

[3] Learning to Eat Allergy-Free

[4] The Huffington Post