I’m what you would call a “digital nomad.” This is my glorified way of saying I’m a rolling stone. I’m always on the move - but wherever I go I make sure there’s access to technology. And with that said, you know I’ve never taken a road trip where I haven’t had to stop and get something to eat, preferably with an Internet connection included.
I’ve always had this habit of holding my gas and food stops for Panera Bread. Panera features warm color palettes and cushioned booths with convenient outlets, but the real draw – besides free Wi-Fi – was eating there always seemed healthier than eating anywhere else. After all, Panera prides itself on delivering fresh food using authentic ingredients and home-cooked flavor combinations. That’s a far cry from greasy cheeseburgers and deep-fried chicken sandwiches with buttered buns and pickles - or so I thought.
Food Babe Exposes Panera
Eating at Panera once meant enjoying hours of free Wi-Fi with a delicious meal that was healthier than what I’d get at a drive-thru. My fantasy was broken when blogger Food Babe published her exposé, “Panera Bread – The Healthiest Fast Food?!?”. Her post revealed some Panera food contained ingredients that weren’t “all natural.”
Food Babe’s post cross-examined several of the menu’s most popular items, including the “heavily processed” Fuji Apple Salad, which included Greek dressing with propylene glycol (used in anti-freeze). In addition to discussing the Fuji Apple Salad, Food Babe reveals what she calls dangerous “food industry trickery” in several other Panera products, including their whole grain bread, Broccoli and Cheese soup and Low Fat Black Bean soup.
Two years after Food Babe’s post went live, Panera Bread responded. They recently announced their decision to stop using “artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives” in their food. Panera CEO Ron Schaich stated:
“Panera was founded on the belief that quick food could be quality food. We started by baking bread from fresh dough each day in our cafes. That commitment led to others – like our early decision to remove artificial trans fats, post calories on menu boards and investing in serving chicken raised without antibiotics.”
Panera Bread’s updated food policy seems focuses on three main areas – clean ingredients, menu transparency and positive impact. Once their food has been rightfully purified of unnatural ingredients, they plan to stop using beverages with high fructose corn syrup.
You Talk, Companies Listen
When you hear stories of people like Food Babe creating petitions and raising awareness against hazardous and unhealthy activity in our food, cleaning and lifestyle products, they’re great. But they should also inspire you. These aren’t Hollywood celebrities taking on the big names duping you of your money and good health. 99 percent of the time, the people behind these major petitions are just ordinary people. They’re just like you and I; they’re just actively passionate about what they believe in. And oftentimes, it’s their personal history that tells the story behind their passion.
Food Babe is great example of taking action. She offers food awareness information presented in an entertaining way that enlightens you and encourages you to take action. Food Babe is rather conscious that most consumers trust what they’re told when it comes to what’s in food. That’s why her brand reveals things we’re not thinking of. We need to be more aware. Because when we are more aware, we can show up and open doors for corporate change where it counts the most.
You can do what Food Babe did. You can perform your own consumer research, identify areas of concern and kindly bring them to someone’s attention. Your impact doesn’t require a blog, a fancy name or a million dollars. It only requires your awareness and a desire to improve. You have to know what’s in your food, what’s going on in your world and you literally make the choice to vote with your fork – and your wallet every chance you get. In fact, you’re voting every day whether you realize it or not. And you matter. Why? Every vote counts.