Panera Bread (PNRA) buys a lot of bacon each year -- over two million pounds, or the equivalent of 115 million slices, to be exact. Now the star of the classic bacon, egg and cheese sandwich will be "clean" at all Panera Bread locations.
"Clean" is simply the buzzword that food is free of artificial ingredients, a term that has become popular among food companies trying to appeal to more health-conscious eaters. Over a year in development, Panera's new bacon uses celery powder as a curing agent in place of additives typically found in fast food bacon, such as sodium nitrite, sodium phosphate and sodium erythorbate.
The bacon used by McDonald's (MCD) and Restaurant Brands' (QSR) Burger King chain, for example, both contain sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite. Panera's new bacon strips tend to be a touch thicker than the ones they are replacing, according to a spokeswoman at an event held in, of all places, New York City's Meatpacking District this week.
In several taste tests, we found the bacon less salty than standard fast-food bacon or supermarket products. "If we are going to clean up the menu, we can't ignore bacon," Panera Bread's head chef Dan Kish told TheStreet.