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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Panera Quietly Testing Gluten-Free Bread Options

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      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.


    Celiac.com 12/04/2015 (Updated 02/11/2019) - Note that since this article was originally published Panera changed their offerings from “gluten-free” to “gluten-friendly” due to the risk of cross-contamination, and their Web site indicates that their offering are not safe for celiacs. 

    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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    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.

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    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 gluten-free 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.

    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 gluten-free 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 celiac disease folks.

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    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 gluten-free 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.

    Thank you for writing the reply that I was going to!

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    I love the thought of being able to eat at Panera again. Having gluten-free 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.

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    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.

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    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.

    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.

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    It is frustrating not being able to eat bread, but what is worse is when there is some supposedly great product marketed for gluten-free with ingredients like chia and flax. Chia is disgusting and flax can be a trigger for some gluten-free 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.

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    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!!!

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    To eliminate as much cross-contamination as possible, each gluten-free unit could be hermetically sealed at the gluten-free manufacturing facility and kept that way until used to fill a gluten-free order at the store. The gluten-free 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.

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    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.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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