Should Customers Fall For Panera's New Gimmick? Food Scientists Weigh In

Sep. 14, 2016

This article features ‘Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience’ which is a group of food science students and young professionals (including FST’s John Frelka and Matt Teegarden) who work to addresses food misconceptions.

“Daaaaaamn Panera, Back at it Again with the Pseudoscience.” Whether or not you chuckle at that viral internet reference (search “Damn Daniel” if you’re curious), the message is clear. On September 7th, a group of pop culture savvy young food scientists slammed Panera Bread for its new marketing campaign in an analysis on Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience, an organization that aims to make food easier to understand in a fun, personable, and relatable manner.

Visitors to Panera’s Land of Clean website can play a game, hunting down and cleaning up artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and colors, which the chain calls the “No No list” for short. Locate and destroy 15 of the seemingly yucky chemicals from the picturesque Baguette Falls, Crisp Valley Farm and Parmesan Square, and receive a coupon for Panera fare. It seems like a good deal, but these food scientists say the company’s messaging is loaded with pseudoscience, instilling unwarranted fear in consumers.

Matt Teegarden is one of Panera’s critics. A Graduate Fellow in food science at Ohio State University, he finds Panera’s new game less than savory. “The game is definitely a fun way to promote a revitalized menu, but it goes beyond just that,” he says. “It  promotes the perception that scientific-sounding food additives are harmful, unhealthy substances that do not belong in foods. Their scientific names, admittedly, may not sound super appetizing, but in no way does that mean they are unsafe.” Click here for the full article.