Daily Insights

Stamp of Sustainability

By: Mackenzie Baker | Oct 22, 2020

Panera follows in the sustainable steps of Sweetgreen and Just Salad with its new low carbon labels. 

To assist customers in finding the healthiest meals for themselves and the planet, Panera will add “Cool Food Meal” badges to its menu, signifying which menu options are considered “low carbon” and environmentally friendly. Panera is the first national restaurant brand to roll out the badges, which were created by the World Resources Institute. The climate-friendly markers will be added to Panera’s core menu items, of which more than half already qualify as having a low impact on the environment. The labels also take into consideration portion size, if meat or dairy are included, and how much of each ingredient is added. The Cool Food Meal markers could encourage customers to make more conscious choices about their food and motivate eco-conscious consumers to visit Panera more frequently. Panera spread the word about its new labels on Twitter and Instagram, where its uses the hashtag #CoolFoodMeal to encourage consumers to “Help Fight Climate Change…During Lunch”. 

Panera’s labels are similar to Just Salad’s, which began adding carbon labels to its meals earlier this summer. The menu markers could keep the environment top of mind with diners, thereby helping them make more sustainable choices. While many brands have launched sustainability pledges or introduced items like reusable cups, Panera’s initiative gives partial power and responsibility to the customers to make eco-friendly choices of their own. By adding the Cool Food Meal badges to help customers think sustainably, Panera could potentially encourage healthier choices in other purchase areas too, such as when buying apparel, cars, or beauty products. To keep the menu badges top of mind no matter where a customer is ordering from, Panera added the Cool Food Meal signifiers to its mobile app and digital menu, including through its new partnership with Google Maps, which further funnels awareness to its cause according to a Gartner report. As Panera has locations across the United States, its menu spruce-up could inspire fellow national brands to embark on eco-friendly initiatives of their own. 

Panera’s low-environmental impact badges could have a big impact on the restaurant industry as consumer demand for sustainability rises. By adding Cool Food Meal markers to its menu, Panera can appeal to health-focused customers and set the stage for future eco-conscious reforms.