The company hopes to strengthen marketing of its new breakfast sandwiches, which it describes as being made with ‘100% real eggs’.
According to the US bakery firm, current FDA regulations do not establish a definition of what constitutes an egg.
“Panera and our competitors use the FDA definitions to guide our product descriptions and names. But in the case of ‘eggs,’ we have no guidance,” said Sara Burnewtt, Panera’s director of Wellness and Food Policy.
This means some competitors can sell and advertise “eggs” that contain additives such as butter flavors, gums and added color.
“Responsible companies will be transparent about the food items they serve, even if regulation does not require them to do so,” said Blaine Hurst, who assumed the CEO role from founder Rod Shaich on January 1.
The filing comes as Panera rolls out its sandwiches made with “100% real eggs” nationwide, part of a larger effort to grow its breakfast business.
The sandwiches will contain extra-large eggs cooked to order; served on a brioche bun made daily by a baker in every US location; topped with Vermont white cheddar cheese and thick-cut bacon, with no artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors, nor preservatives.
The real deal
“We chose to use ‘egg’ in the name of our breakfast sandwiches because we use a whole, shell egg to craft them,” the company wrote in its petition to FDA.
“But we found that some foodservice and retail competitors use the same term ‘egg’ within their product names and product descriptions to describe menu items that contain egg patties or egg products containing food additives ranging from preservatives to colors to emulsifiers.”
“We're big advocates of ensuring people know what they're eating,” added Panera’s senior VP of marketing, Chris Hollander.
“We were surprised at just how complicated some of the other competition’s eggs were. It seemed like a natural for us to then reach out to the FDA.”
Cracking the whip
In its 30-year history, Panera has grown from one 400 square foot store in Boston to today more than 2,300 outlets in the US and Canada, clocking nearly $6bn in sales.
The FDA petition shows Hurst is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, who often took a stand on social issues, including criticising US President Donald Trump for failing to condemn white supremacist groups and calling for bakers to stand strong against ‘bad bread’ messaging.