New Cool Food Meals at Panera Bread

A delicious way to make a difference.


(Deutschlandreform /

Ever thought about ordering a climate-friendly dish? Now you can! When you walk into a Panera Bread cafe, you will now see many items displaying a Cool Food Meal label. This type of food is not about being frozen or cold — it is all about caring for the environment — and Panera Bread is proudly the first national food chain to label their food according to its carbon footprint!

These meals, as described on Cool Food, are mostly plant-based and are chosen for their low carbon imprint. This is an important step in reducing greenhouse gases, as 37 percent of emissions are from the global food system, according to the United Nations. By definition, the global food system includes producing, processing, preparing, transporting and consuming food.

Here’s how it works. Working with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and using a Cool Food Calculator, restaurants measure each dish’s carbon footprint. This takes into account the greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural supply chain, farmland used to grow the food, and food-related carbon costs.

The WRI objective is to be below 5.38 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per portion for lunches and dinners. Dairy and meat ingredients are at the high end, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are at the lower Cool Food end of the scale. The WRI is aspiring to meet the reduced emissions set in the climate goals of The Paris Agreement.

After measuring the carbon footprint of items on their menu, Panera Bread found that over half of the food they serve is Cool Food, according to CNBC. Popular choices that are Cool Foods include broccoli cheddar soup, avocado melt, Fuji apple salad with chicken, and their Mediterranean bowl.

With 2,000 restaurants in the US and Canada, Panera Bread has the power to make a genuine change in people’s food choices. Although this Cool Food initiative went into action on October 21, Panera has been committed to creating a positive impact on the food system since 2014, when it decided to remove artificial colors, additives, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from its ingredients.

In 2016, Panera advertised a menu that was 100 percent free of GMOs and preservatives and pledged to use organic quinoa, free-range egg, and more plant-based proteins. With these changes, Panera Bread soon became known as the healthiest fast-food restaurant in North America.

Panera Bread has established itself as a restaurant leader in the fight against climate change. Daniel Vennard of WRI told Food Business News, “It’s incredibly exciting that Cool Food Meals is launching on the Panera Bread menus across America. Our hope is that Cool Food Meals will continue to scale across the nation, and then further afield.”

Other restaurants are taking note and will hopefully jump on board. As for consumers, this is real food for thought; people can now look at menu items with fresh eyes and understand that a person’s lunch choice can actually make a change when it comes to the climate. As Cool Food says, this is “a delicious way to make a difference.”

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