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Panera Quietly Testing Gluten-Free Bread Options

Celiac.com 12/04/2015 - In what may be good news for gluten-free bread lovers, Panera Bread, the national-fast casual restaurant that centers around freshly baked goods, is now testing out a new products to bring in gluten-free customers.

Photo: CC--Smantha CeleraThe company plans to test a gluten-free Rosemary Focaccia Roll in 15 stores in the Detroit area, and plans to take the product nation-wide in the second half of 2016. To be successful, the chain will have to succeed where many others have failed; they will have to produce a high-quality product that is tasty, commercially viable, and safe for people with celiac disease.

Panera's effort is headed in part by the company's head baker Tom Gumpel, who says that there is currently "…little to no good-tasting gluten-free bread in this country, and I've eaten about every slice there is."

To solve the quality/taste challenge, Panera has created a focaccia roll rather than a loaf of bread. The roll is made from white sorghum from Africa, and contains sprouted broccoli, chia, and flax seeds for better nutrition and improved bread texture.

As far as folks with celiac disease are concerned, they will need to exercise some caution, because while Panera's bread is made in gluten-free facility and with gluten-free ingredients, it will be stored and served alongside the store's regular offerings, which may be an issue for more sensitive people.

A review by Yahoo Food says that the bread is made with olive oil, and then basted with it, giving the bread a slightly greasy quality. The flavor becomes more nutty and rich with toasting, and may work best on breakfast or hot sandwiches.

As for price, in the test region, the bread will cost $1.50 more as an option on a sandwich, 75 cents more as a side choice, and a $1 each if purchased retail.

What do you think? Excited to try Panera's new gluten-free focaccia? Share your comments below.

Read more at Yahoo.com

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57 Responses:

 
Michelle Boozer
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
04 Dec 2015 8:48:54 PM PST
Looking forward to it....sounds yummy...I miss Panera since my daughter has CD and I do GF with her. We will definitely try it!

 
Peg Snyder
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said this on
06 Dec 2015 6:04:10 AM PST
Many older celiacs who are faced with poor quality bread daily (like myself) fondly remember the feel of good bread in our mouths and often wish for a slice of Wonder Bread. Some thing that toasts well and doesn't feel like a rock in our stomachs after eating. Maybe a roll with a soft torn interior and a little bit of crunch on the outside. The closest I've found is the soft white bread Aldi's makes. If you can surpass that, celiacs will beat a path to your door.

 
Heather
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 6:12:49 AM PST
Peg, have you tried Kinnickinnick's white bread? It is amazing compared to many other bread options. It is great by itself, toasted, and with other ingredients. I also love their hamburger, hotdog buns, and rolls. It's worth a shot to try. You won't be disappointed. I've tried every single bread on the market it seems like and once I tried this, I haven't tried anything else! Hope this helps.

 
Gail Rothenberger
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 8:14:16 AM PST
I applaud Panera's efforts to provide good gluten-free food. Up to now, they have not been particularly gluten-free friendly.

 
Beverly
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 8:29:08 AM PST
I have been hounding Panera sites and e-mails to Panera execs for 8 years!! My wait is on the way to be fulfilled!! Yea!!!!!!! I have celiac disease and I welcome the interest in GF products. I bake my own breads but it's just not the same. But I will admit some products are just not good. Hope Paneras products are tasty and can't wait til mid 2016!!

 
Luann
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 9:29:53 AM PST
Looking forward to it. I bet they provide a really good bread!

 
Ann
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 9:32:11 AM PST
I really don't know how to rate this article. It is written to provide information so it's not the article's fault that I have an issue with it's content.

It always negatively amazes me when a company announces that they are going to or provide a gluten free food and then add the disclaimer similar to Panera's that "As far as folks with celiac disease are concerned, they will need to exercise some caution, because while Panera's bread is made in gluten-free facility and with gluten-free ingredients, it will be stored and served alongside the store's regular offerings, which may be an issue for more sensitive people."

Guess what? If your food item is stored and/or served alongside gluten containing food items and there is cross-contamination --- your supposed GF offering is NO LONGER GLUTEN FREE. So why bother? Who are you try to appeal to the people who think Gluten free is a type of "diet" that you can choose to be on or not? Or the people for which a Gluten Free diet is medically necessary (eg. for Celiac Disease) and they have no choice but to be on it?

Why "try" to sound like you care about the folks who must adhere to a "true" Gluten free diet, when you won't take the time or training to ensure your product(s) remains gluten free from the time the ingredients are put together to make the food to the to it is put on the customer's plate.

Shaking my head.

 
sue
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
08 Dec 2015 3:17:38 AM PST
I so agree, Ann. Apparently Panera has not done their homework. There may be people out there who choose to be GF, but for most of us we have to be GF because of our health. I asked them a year or so ago about offering pre-packaged GF cinnamon rolls/muffins so I could still go there with my family and eat, but was told that would be too hard to keep them separate. No you outsource from a safe company and offer them in your store. So , I won't be eating their new roll. Not worth getting sick, and can't imagine anyone who eats gf because of your health would eat it.

 
Sherry
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 1:37:37 PM PST
I totally agree. Why bother!!! This will NOT be safe for people with celiac. I don't understand why people are so excited!!

 
Linda
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 8:55:33 PM PST
I agree with Ann. Cross contamination thru poor training and storage/handling will negate all. I have visited a few Panera facilities but have never felt comfortable with their practices to place an order.

 
Jo Diehl
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 9:56:29 PM PST
My thoughts exactly! Very frustrating!

 
Lori
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 4:45:23 PM PST
Well said! I couldn't agree more!

 
Pippy
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 5:15:00 AM PST
Hi Ann,
You took the words right out of my mouth. I too was left shaking my head. It is good that someone is experimenting, attempting to make a decent GF bread, but obviously, the people who need it the most, are still being kicked to the curb.
My only hope is that they will sell it by the loaf, stored in plastic bags, away from the other breads, before the risk of contamination is there.
I think I will make a call or write a letter to them, expression my gratefulness to them for doing this, but to please take it a step further in protecting the CD folks.

 
Alice
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said this on
04 Jan 2016 6:58:40 PM PST
Sounds like a good idea. I am anxious to see what happens with Panara in the next year.

 
Amy Sutherland
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 5:18:17 AM PST
Thank you for writing the reply that I was going to!

 
Barbara
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 8:07:11 AM PST
Yup. If they want to refer to it as 'gluten conscious', have at it. However, the words 'gluten-free' should never be mentioned at all.

 
Susie
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 4:59:29 PM PST
Ann, I agree totally with you! Also, when GF products are being served by staff who don't really care or understand, the chances of cross contamination are even greater.

My head is shaking along with yours!

 
Pippy
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 4:12:13 PM PST
My head is shaking as well, and it really concerns me that so many say their child has CD, but they plan to take them there. Huh!!!? Not safe for folks with CD.

 
Toni
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said this on
10 Dec 2015 5:10:56 AM PST
This is exactly the issue. Don't stop short of doing something that can really make a difference to all who deal with celiac...don't let cross contamination totally cancel out the meaning of gluten free.

 
Joan
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said this on
11 Jan 2016 8:44:23 AM PST
I want to second the letter from Shaking my head. If you want to do something please research it more carefully and do it right. Contaminated bread is not gluten free. That's why I make my own bread from Breads by Anna. It is super mix and I never have a reaction. I buy in bulk.

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
11 Jan 2016 12:25:05 PM PST
Why would you assume that Panera's bread won't be gluten-free? Clearly it would have to be to be labeled as such.

 
sue
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said this on
13 Jan 2016 3:26:01 PM PST
There is a difference between a food being gluten free and then how it's handled, served, etc..to be safe for people who can't risk cross contamination. It is so sad how a lot of people treat gluten free as a whim of some sort or a diet..It has to be kept totally separate and I don't think it sounds like it will be.

 
Wendy
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 12:24:03 PM PST
Yay Panera! Can't wait!

 
Manon
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 12:24:14 PM PST
How would they prevent cross contamination??

 
Scotty
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 12:31:56 PM PST
I'm in the Detroit area!!!! I would SOOO love to try this!

 
Chloe
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 5:03:42 PM PST
I am 11 years old and I have celiac disease and I'm always looking for a good bread, I have Udi's bread for lunch every day. I love going to Panera but they've never have many GLUTEN FREE options. I'm glad their trying it out!

 
Lau
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 5:14:02 PM PST
Looking forward to it! A new Panera is opening close to my home, so now I'll be able to eat there! Thanks for publishing this.

 
Lynn A. Reynolds
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 5:30:15 PM PST
I would love to give it a try. My problem is that there isn't a Panera's in my town and would have to travel to the next town. Will keep fingers crossed that it tastes good in order to justify the length of time and gas to get to the closest restaurant.

 
rich J
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 5:44:04 PM PST
Seems silly that Panera would roll this out in Detroit, since there are probably more people with CD (and faddists) in California.

 
Jeannie
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 7:07:58 PM PST
Thank you Panera! Can't wait to try it.

 
Coloradosue
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 7:25:31 PM PST
Reaction and Opinion on Panera Gluten Free Rolls and their Storage Issues
12/07/15

It concerns me that another food outlet is storing an "unsealed"* gluten free product in the same location as regular rolls. I have addressed this same issue with Sprouts. I have asked the store manager on why gluten free products are stored on the same shelves as regular products and am directed to talk to the national office. Their common answer is, " we will take it under advisement ". Common sense dictates that if you want consumers to purchase the more expensive gluten free products in their stores, then you make the effort. I spend hours researching GF products and their locations online, by circulars in the mail, and by word-of-mouth looking for the best prices of the products I use. I don't have the luxury of time, energy, money or strength looking for GF products. Walmart is the only store that at least locates most of the GF products they sell at the end of one row. The other gluten free products that I buy that are located in other parts of the store are in most cases sealed and sit side by side with other normal products. Again packaging is a deciding factor on gluten free product placement. And even with careful manufacturing and packaging processes in place, you accept the odds on the products you buy. There no guarantees!

As an extremely sensitive person with Celiac Disease, (ESPCD) I will continue to stick to what I KNOW.

*the word unsealed being a vacuum sealed bag or canned at a dedicated manufacturer site.

 
Barbi
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said this on
12 Dec 2015 5:13:20 AM PST
I share your concern too... because of the high risk of cross contamination and lack of education of food allergies, I will likely never try it unless Panera makes the effort to separate GF from regular as well as ensure that sandwich ingredients are not contaminated. It’s easier to be safe and pack my own food or protein bar than to make that gamble.

 
Mary Lou
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 8:45:30 PM PST
Preventing cross-contamination is key and the amount and quality of staff training is a big issue. In my locale around DC, some restaurants are very accommodating, changing gloves, having a dedicated prep space, etc., while others give customers lots of attitude and poor service, losing business from me and others I know who are celiacs. We communicate and pass along our experiences. We used to frequent Panera's often as an extended family group, but their current limitations and staff lack of responsiveness has us going to other places.

 
Miette
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 9:16:35 PM PST
Fact is, that it defeats the purpose to us celiacs!

 
Barb
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 10:05:40 PM PST
Yea for Panera! I have read their ingredient book so often, looking for gluten free items. It will be so nice to have a sandwich at the restaurant.

 
Jan
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said this on
07 Dec 2015 11:30:40 PM PST
These efforts are fabulous; however, whether you have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive, unless the cross-contamination is removed from your kitchens, you might as well be serving glutenized bread! One crumb of gluten sets the autoimmune response in motion. Good try, yet the efforts won't help those of us that would love delicious bread!

 
sc'Que?
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 12:00:21 AM PST
I'm with Ann on this one. Ship them to the store in a neutral-gas filled bag (similar to Schar), offer them in two-paks to take out, or let the customer "make" their own sandwich at the table with otherwise GF fixin's. But don't sit on the fence when serving it.

 
Cathy Caron
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 4:04:44 AM PST
I would love this. Because I am gluten intolerant, cross contamination is not as critical. (If I have gluten, I get hives). Of course I would love to live in a perfect world!!! I am so happy to hear that I can order a sandwich, FINALLY. My husband and I don't go to Panera as often anymore. Red Robin serves gluten free hamburger roll with their hormone free hamburgers. I am definitely going back to Panera IF they start gluten free. Yay.

 
Christy
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 5:36:17 AM PST
I love the thought of being able to eat at Panera again. Having GF bread, especially focaccia, with great texture and taste would be wonderful. I am really worried about cross contamination though. I really hope they can figure out how to do it safely.

 
Dan
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 5:55:37 AM PST
To have a bread option for a sandwich at such an accessible franchise would be groundbreaking. I can't wait.

 
Jennifer
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 5:57:16 AM PST
I was in the Sarasota Pavilion store this past October and asked for gluten free, and they said they were working on it! I was / am thrilled. BUT Panera must not have cross contamination!
For is not processed properly, it is a mute point to offer.

 
Michelle
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 6:24:22 AM PST
It is frustrating not being able to eat bread, but what is worse is when there is some supposedly great product marketed for GF with ingredients like chia and flax. Chia is disgusting and flax can be a trigger for some GF sufferers as well because it contributes to the inflammation process. If anyone is going to do it, it should be Panera with their fairly healthy/ingredient-conscious menu. Doesn't seem like they did their research very well in this case, though.

 
Sandy M.
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 6:30:53 AM PST
So excited. Finding a good gluten-free sandwich is almost impossible. Can't wait to be able to enjoy my favorite Panera sandwich again. Thank you!!

 
Marilyn Hauth
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 7:30:00 AM PST
I don't buy the gluten free bread, because none tastes like real bread! I make my own. Have been experimenting for over 10 years to get the tastes I remember. They come close, are delicious when first baked, then go hard after a day or so, unless warmed up. Still experimenting to find the perfect solution!!!

 
riverdok
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 7:31:25 AM PST
To eliminate as much cross-contamination as possible, each GF unit could be hermetically sealed at the GF manufacturing facility and kept that way until used to fill a GF order at the store. The GF customer could be given the further choice of either having their sandwich constructed by store staff, or being given the ingredients separately so that the customer could construct their own sandwich at their table. This is not rocket science; it would just be due diligence on Panera's part. I also look forward to this roll out. Until then, my wife will continue to make rolls for me that have a toasted quinoa flour incorporation that has proven to be quite satisfactory.

 
vera
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 7:43:14 AM PST
I am delighted. I stopped going their because I knew I should eat the apple but just could not.
Culver's Restaurant in WI. serve a bun that is wrapped, but it is to large so i cut the top off.
I live in FL.

 
Melodee
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 8:22:24 AM PST
I'm looking forward to tasting a new gluten-free bread. I hope you stock the FL and NC stores!

 
Tom Keeley
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 8:47:20 AM PST
Ann's 12/7 comment above is right on! We all welcome Panera's effort, however, with out taking the next step of protecting against cross contamination it's foolish idea for most of us! And someone should tell Panera of this serious problem!

 
Lady5sty
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 9:24:10 AM PST
It will take more than a gluten-free bread to make this work. Cross-contamination in a bakery like Panera will be a huge problem unless they implement safeguards, like separate prep areas and baking ovens.

 
Laura
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 10:02:45 AM PST
The only way I would feel comfortable eating this bread is if it came completely sealed, and they had a separate prep area and toaster, if I saw them change gloves, and they were proactive about it, because otherwise I would be concerned that the food prep area might be contaminated from the last 3 times they did prep there right after touching regular wheat bread without changing gloves. I would worry about them cutting the other bread and then using the same gloves to reach into the food bins with ingredients. Basically in a place like Panera, it would be hard for them to have a dedicated GF space AND ALSO protect the shared ingredients from bread crumbs during the normal course of food prep.

 
Claire Lowery
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 11:19:49 AM PST
I enjoy soup and salad at Panera Bread. However, the gluten free soups are limited to one (Creamy Tomato) or two. Can this be corrected with the addition of more gluten free soups?
Thank you!

 
thisscreennametaken
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 12:53:30 PM PST
I agree with other posters that this is not sufficient for those with Celiac, but it IS good news for those of us with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Yes. it IS a thing. I avoid gluten not because it's trendy, or to lose weight, but because I was desperate to find out what was wrong with me for the last 30 years, and my bloodwork came back negative for Celiac, but my pathology report had "unspecified abnormailities." Great, doc- thanks! So, I stopped eating gluten and within days all my symptoms were gone, and they dont't come back unless I screw up and take in gluten somehow. However, I don't get as sick as people with Celiac, and my threshold for contamination is somewhat higher. So I can't eat a piece of bread, or even visible breadcrumbs left on my salad accidentally, but microscopic contamination doesn't USUALLY affect me. Sorry, celiac sufferers- I do sympathize with you, but you have to understand that it takes a lot of time and a major financial commitment for a company to truly say they are "gluten free."

 
Rhonda
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 2:31:37 PM PST
I hope it works. I love panera. Looking forward to try it. Hope it comes to R.I

 
LA White
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 6:03:39 PM PST
All the hype-but in the end it's very disappointing that celiacs are not taken seriously. I agree with Ann (12/7 post). I would love to be able to eat out more often, especially being celiac for 11 years.

 
Dixie LaMarca
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said this on
08 Dec 2015 9:13:52 PM PST
I am celiac and I agree with the comments about cross contamination from all the above letters. Cross contamination would make the gluten free bread like any other bread in the store; that would not be acceptable for the person with celiac sprue.

 
Carolyn
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said this on
09 Dec 2015 7:14:40 PM PST
Was with family in Panera the other day...used to eat there a lot before developing gluten issues. They did not even have a GF menu to look at and it is very hard to know what menu items are GF. I'm so happy to hear this...

 
Don
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said this on
11 Jan 2016 6:03:27 PM PST
I can't wait. I haven't been to Panera in years since I discovered I was a celiac. I've missed it so much.




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