Panera Bread will begin to roll out new labeling of added sugars and calories in soft drinks and other self-serve fountain beverages, the first such move by a U.S. restaurant chain as food companies face rising demand from consumers to cut back on their use of the sweetener.
The move comes at a time when casual restaurant chains from McDonalds to Starbucks have been under pressure from slack demand and underscores the pressure that soft-drink makers are facing as sales decline.
The U.S. government last year said that companies need to detail how much added sugars are in packaged foods, but restaurants do not have any such requirements. Governments worldwide are also seeking to impose taxes on sweetened beverages.
Panera will also introduce six new low- and no-sugar teas and lemonades, an extension of the bakery chain's shift away from artificial sweeteners and flavors rolled out last year.
Panera said focusing on beverages was the next step to creating a healthier menu, after introducing its clearer labels. Sugary drinks are contributing to U.S. rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the company noted.
Panera's new drinks will sit on counters next to the traditional soda fountains, and be offered at the same prices.
Panera first plans to roll out the new beverages in five U.S. cities, including Washington and Atlanta, and then nationally later this year.
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