#cleaneating goes mainstream?
With consumers becoming more and more health conscious, the food and beverage industry is facing increased pressure to offer healthier, all-natural options. The latest company to hop on board the health train? Panera Bread. They've announced that as of January 1, 2017, 100% of their ingredients are clean - an achievement that has been several years (and many reformulations) in the making.
But what does 'clean' really mean? And, more importantly, do consumers automatically equate 'clean' with 'healthy'?
'Clean eating' is a term that refers to eating whole foods in their most natural state. The latest philosophy in healthier living, it has rapidly gained momentum with Instagram hashtags such as #cleaneating and #cleaneats - featuring colorful displays of fresh foods and recipes.
But 'clean eating' isn't necessarily balanced eating. While Panera may now boast an additive-free menu, many items remain highly caloric, with some containing more than the daily recommended value of fat and sugar. Thus, as Panera promotes their completely clean menu, will they address similar future improvements to the nutritional value of their food?
The answer to that comes down to whether the brand's ultimate purpose is to inspire and facilitate a better way of eating or if this is merely a surface level attempt to appease consumer concerns.
We hope it is the former because if Panera continues to take steps towards supporting their consumers in making better choices to live a healthier life, they will become a beacon in the category.
However, if it is the latter, then brand beware. Its communication, with the golden fields at dawn, is slightly sly as it suggests 'healthy' when that is not exactly the case, at least not today. No one likes to be deceived, and for consumers, that's an unpardonable offense.
Thus, as Panera, other restaurant chains, and Big Food Manufactures shift their food practices to accommodate consumer desire for healthier and more nutritional choices, they need to ask how deep their commitment goes. Half-truths and half-hearted promises do not inspire brand love. Transparency, genuine concern and true dedication to change does.