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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 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.

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    Was with family in Panera the other day...used to eat there a lot before developing gluten issues. They did not even have a gluten-free menu to look at and it is very hard to know what menu items are gluten-free. I'm so happy to hear this...

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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.

    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.

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    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 gluten-free 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 gluten-free products. Walmart is the only store that at least locates most of the gluten-free 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.

    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 gluten-free 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.

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    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.

    Sounds like a good idea. I am anxious to see what happens with Panara in the next year.

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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.

    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.

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    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.

    Why would you assume that Panera's bread won't be gluten-free? Clearly it would have to be to be labeled as such.

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    Why would you assume that Panera's bread won't be gluten-free? Clearly it would have to be to be labeled as such.

    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.

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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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