Panera is making a new breakfast sandwich. And its marketing for that sandwich is making a political statement that the company hopes will leave its competitors with egg on their faces.
As part of its ongoing “clean eating” campaign, the casual dining giant announced on Friday that it will use 100 percent freshly-cracked eggs in its breakfast sandwiches, meaning their customers will no longer find a hockey-puck-shaped egg patty tucked between their Vermont cheddar and brioche bun.
The company spent nine months perfecting a sandwich with a runny yolk that could be mass produced. In working toward its goal of using all fresh eggs, Panera said their research led them to realize that many of their competitors were not.
“We looked at our competitors and a lot of people are serving bacon, egg, and cheese” sandwiches, said Sara Burnett, Panera’s director of wellness and food policy. “When we actually looked at ingredients very few people are actually serving an egg. Among the top 10 brands, over half have an egg with five ingredients, and some have as many as 16. It’s an egg with many, many additives.”
According to Burnett, the FDA does not have a definition and “standard of identity” for the word “egg” in its regulations. Without this, companies can sell items under the generic term “egg” that contain additives, such as butter type flavors, gums, and added colors.
So, as part of the launch of its new sandwich, Panera also announced that it is petitioning the FDA to standardize the definition of egg as “freshly prepared, cracked shell eggs and/or egg whites with no additives.”
“It simply is asking for that to be clearly defined, to help inform us an our peers,” said Burnett.
Panera’s new chief executive, Blaine Hurst, acknowledges that the FDA petition is part of the marketing for the new sandwich. But he said it also reflects the company’s mission.
“How do we create the ongoing dialogue about the food that we consume in America?” he said. what really matters for us in terms of our mission and purpose is to actually create the conversations.”