- Panera/David Elmes
Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich claims McDonald’s is misleading customers about its food.
“I was offended watching this commercial during the Olympics aboutthe preservative-free McNuggets,” Shaich said in a phone interview with Business Insider. “I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’Sure, you’ve got McNuggets that are preservative-free, but what are you dipping them in? Sauces that are filled with that stuff!”
McDonald’s announced last week that it was removing artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, eliminating high-fructose corn syrup from its hamburger buns, and transitioning to antibiotic-free chicken one year earlier than planned.
After the announcement, the company received some criticism that its sauces still contained preservatives.
Shaich commended McDonald’s for taking steps toward ridding its menu of artificial ingredients, but he said the company’s advertising could lead consumers to think everything on its menu was preservative-free.
“What is wrong,” he said, is when companies remove preservatives from one product, “and you start advertising that, and you generalize or give the impression that the whole menu is that way.”
In response, McDonald’s spokeswoman Terri Hickey told Business Insider:
“Last week we completed the removal of artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets and many breakfast items as well as quality improvements which touch ingredients in nearly half of the food on our menu. We are proud of these big changes, even as we seek to do more and make the food people truly love to eat at McDonald’s even better.”
Shaich also tore into the fast-food industry’s marketing of kids meals.
“The way in which this industry is doing kids meals is not right,” he said.
Historically, kids meals have been built around “marketing gimmicks and toys,” he said.
“It’s been [about]building basically value meals around a kids product and a sugary beverage and a side, and we think it’s wrong,” he said. “None of it is clean food. It’s all full of artificial preservatives and artificial sweeteners and flavors and non-naturally occurring colors.”
With that in mind, Panera issued a challenge to the restaurant industry on Thursday to adhere to a new “kids meal promise.”
The promise, which Panera says it hopes serves as a model for others, requires restaurants to adhere to numerous standards, including ridding kids meals of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors. Panera’s kids menu is already free of those things.
“We welcome helping anybody that wants to go down this path,” Shaich said.
Here are the tenets of Panera’s “kids meal promise”:
Clean. No artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners, or colors from artificial sources. Worthy of trust.No gimmicks. No distractions. No cartoon characters, crazy colors, toys, or toy-shaped food.Full of delicious options.Let kids be kids. Let them be picky. Let them make their own choices from a menu full of tasty, wholesome options.Nutritiously paired.Growing bodies need a meal complete with nutritious sides. Not fries, not onion rings. Options like organic yogurt, sprouted grain rolls, or apples.Drink optional.Kids meals shouldn’t encourage kids to drink a sugary beverage. Ours never have, never will. Water first, then the option of adding organic milk or 100% juice.