- Panera is petitioning the FDA to provide a legal definition of an egg.
- The chain says breakfast sandwiches from rivals like Chick-fil-A and Starbucks contain additives and artificial ingredients.
- Panera is also rolling out its new egg sandwich – made with a freshly cracked egg – as part of a breakfast push at the chain.
Panera isn’t pulling any punches on breakfast.
On Friday, the fast-casual chain announced that it was petitioning the US Food and Drug Administration to establish a clear definition of the term “egg,” something that it does not currently have. Panera specifically calls out competitors – including Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and Burger King – on using “eggs” that contain additives such as butter flavors, gums, and added colors.
“When you ask for an egg, you should get an egg,” Panera’s president and CEO, Blaine Hurst, told Business Insider. “It just seems logical … Part of our mission is really to continue this push towards transparency in the food that we eat.”
The egg in Starbucks’ breakfast sandwich, for example, contains “whole eggs, water, soybean oil, modified food starch, whey solids, salt, nonfat dry milk and citric acid.”
“We’re not perfect either, and we’re not suggesting we’re perfect,” Hurst said, pointing to the Diet Mountain Dew he was sipping at 9 a.m. “What we’re suggesting is that everyone should be on this journey to transparency and clean, and making sure the consumer knows what they’re eating.”
The petition follows Panera’s roll-out of a new egg sandwich, which uses freshly-cracked, over-easy eggs made without the standard ring used by many chains, including McDonald’s. The ring is known to create “hockey puck”-style egg disks.
“If you think about it, there are no fast-food restaurants or fast-casual restaurants that serve an over-easy egg. It’s just not possible,” Hust said. “To do this to scale with 2,000 restaurants – it’s almost impossible.”
Panera used fresh eggs in the past, but it also used the “hockey puck” ring and cooked the eggs over-hard. According to Hurst, Panera has been working to develop its new egg sandwich since last year. As recently as last summer, he said, there were major questions as to whether the chain could roll out the over-easy egg nationally.
The FDA egg campaign and revamped egg sandwich will kick off a push into the breakfast business by Panera, which hasn’t had any major morning innovation or marketing campaigns in recent years.
“There’s clearly upside to our breakfast opportunity,” Hurst said. “We think this is part of it. And there’s more to come.”
He continued: “Let’s put it this way – I would drive down the road, I’d drive past every other place to eat this sandwich. And we think a lot of other consumers would make the same choice.”