Food Trends

Keeping track of promises made by big food companies
From cage free eggs to antibiotic-free meats and ditching artificial ingredients, big food companies like Taco Bell, Subway, General Mills, McDonald's and more are promising to revamp their food supply for the greater good. Check out the big changes coming to your favorite food chains in the coming years--and see if they're keeping their promises. 
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Dunkin' Brands

The promise: Dunkin' Brands, the parent company of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, has vowed to remove artificial colorings and flavorings from its U.S. offerings by the end of 2018. The changes will affect beverages, baked goods, icings and ice creams sold at both chains, but excludes "supplier-branded" items which are used as toppings, ice cream mix-ins or decorative elements. Dunkin' Brands says that Baskin-Robbins' cake decorations will also switch to all-natural dye, though probably not by the end of next year. CEO Nigel Travis says the changes are being made to satisfy customers' preferences for "more nutritional transparency and simpler ingredients."
(Reuters)

Subway

The promise: Subway says it's in the process of eliminating any poultry raised with antibiotics in its U.S. stores by the end of 2016. The sandwich chain expects all of its chicken to be antibiotic-free by the end of the year and will begin rolling out antibiotic-free turkey meat. also plans to remove artificial flavors, colors and preservatives from its food in North America by 2017. The transition is expected to take up to three years. When it comes to pork and beef, however, the chain says it will start transitioning to antibiotic-free meats by 2025. 

Where they stand: In 2014, after a food activist started a petition, the company removed the additive azodicarbonamide from its bread, which is a substance also used in yoga mats. The ingredient is no longer in Subway’s food.

Pepsi promises to cutback on sugar.

The soda and snack giant announced a global sustainability initiative to greatly reduce the calorie count  and sugar content of its beverages. Pepsi says at least two-thirds of its beverages will contain 100 calories or less per 12-ounce serving by 2025. As part of the initiative, the company will increase its focus on zero or lower-calorie products. PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi says the company also plans to redouble water efficiency company wide. Today, the soda giant sells drink products in about 180 countries worldwide, making over $1 billion annually from the sale of its signature Pepsi cola.

(iStock)

Progresso now using hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken

As of Sept. 26, the soup company says it is now only using 100 percent antibiotic and hormone free chicken breasts in all 36 varieties of its chicken soups. Progresso, owned by General Mills, says it is the first major national retailer to use chicken raised sans hormones or antibiotics. The new meat is available in its classics like Traditional Chicken Noodles, Chicken Wild Rice and Chicken Dumpling as well as in its Light and Reduced Sodium soup lines. The company also debuted new packaging this summer for the first time in over a decade, which Progresso says highlights its “modern, fresh” outlook on food.

(Progresso )

Wendy's

Wendy’s, the country's fifth largest fast food chain, has pledged to stop using chickens raised with human antibiotics by 2017. As of June 2016, half of Wendy's chicken supply was raised without “medically important” antibiotics. The company purchases more than 250 million pounds of chicken annually and also said it would announce goals for the reduction of antibiotics “important to humans” in pork and beef production in 2017. The move follows in the footsteps of McDonalds, Chipotle, Panera, and Chick-Fil-A, all of which have made promises not to serve chicken raised with medically important antibiotics in the next few years.

(Wendy's)

Pizza Hut

America’s largest pizza chain says it will  no longer use poultry products raised using antibiotics by March 2017. It will also remove the artificial preservatives from all of its cheese and meat supply. By July, the preservatives known as BHT and BHA will be removed from all meat in the chain. Pizza Hut, which operates over 15,000 locations around the globe, is owned by Yum! Brands, the umbrella company that also includes Taco Bell and KFC. But the world's largest chicken-chain isn't ready to take the antibiotic-free plunge. Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed told shareholders at a recent meeting that KFC is still studying the business with suppliers.

(Yum! Brands)

Papa John’s

Papa John’s is trying to live up to its “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” slogan by axing high-fructose corn syrup from its entire menu. The move, effective today, affects everything the chain makes from its sauces, dough, pizza toppings, and even dessert items. The company says it is the first national pizza chain to get rid of high fructose corn syrup and that it will continue an “aggressive push” toward offering cleaner ingredients. In January, Papa John’s scrubbed its menu of all artificial flavors and synthetic colors. And the chain has pledged to eliminate chicken and other meats treated with antibiotics from its menu.

(Papa John's Pizza)

Walmart

The promise: Walmart has pledged to sell only cage-free eggs by 2025. As the country’s largest retailer—Walmart sells 25 percent of all food in the U.S.—the switch could have major implications for poultry farmers. The chain will start gradually phasing out all conventionally raised eggs over the next decade. The new policy will apply to all locations in the U.S. including 4,600 Walmart stores and 650 Sam's Clubs. Walmart has sold cage-free eggs since 2001.

(AP)

Kroger/ Harris Teeter

The promise: Kroger, the parent company of Harris Teeter, said it will move to a cage-free egg supply by 2025. Where they stand:  The company joins a increasingly crowded field of restaurants and grocery chains around the country.  It come just days after the parent company of its competitor, Food Lion, announced that it too will begin transitioning to a 100 percent cage-free shell egg policy.

In-N-Out Burger

The promise: The California burger chain said in early March that it would begin sourcing beef “that is not raised with antibiotics important to human medicine.” No time line was given. Where they stand:  The move follows similar moves by other fast food chains, including McDonalds (which will serve antibiotic-free chicken by 2017) and Shake Shack. In-N-Out is known for its high-quality, fresh ingredients, but has been petitioned by advocacy groups such as Friends of the Earth to change its policy.

Trader Joe's

The promise: Trader Joe's announced on Feb.12, 2016 that it would sell eggs from only cage-free hens in Western state stores by 2020 all Trader Joe's stores nationwide  by 2025. Where they stand: About 62 percent of the eggs sold at Trader Joe's are already cage-free but the chain had been pressured by animal rights activists such as Compassion in World Farming to make a total switch.  Trader Joe's follows a handful of other grocery chains such as Costco to make a move.

(Reuters)

Mars

The promise:  Mars, Inc., the company that makes M&M's as well as Snickers, Twix, Dove, Milky Way and 3 Musketeers, has announced it is removing all artificial coloring from its "human food products" (Mars also makes pet food). Where they stand: Many of Mars’ products already are free of artificial colors, mainly in Europe where artificial colors like Yellow 5, Yellow and Red 40 are banned.  The company has pledged to voluntarily phase out these and other coloring and will work closely with its suppliers to find alternatives.

Target

The promise: Target announced Jan. 20 that it will offer 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2025. A with a deadline nearly a decade out may seem like a long time, but Target says it needs to work with suppliers to build up its sourcing. Where it stands: While it seems like nearly every week, another food company pledges to go cage free, Target is still one of the first retailers to commit. But it's still way behind Whole Foods, which was the first national chain to say it would go cage-free back in 2005.

Denny’s

The promise: The home of the Grand Slam breakfast announced in Jan. 2016 that it will be serving 100 percent cage-free eggs in all of its U.S. restaurants by 2026. Where they stand:  Denny's is late to the game of promising cage free eggs and its 10-year time frame is longer than most fast food and fast causal restaurants, but they're among the first full-service food chains to take the plunge.

Wendy's

The promise: On Jan. 4, the chain says it’ll switch to sourcing 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2020 in all U.S. and Canadian locations and eliminate gestation stalls from its pork supply chain by 2022. Where they stand: Wendy's responded to demands by consumers who pushed for the switch to cage-free eggs after a petition that garnered 150,000 signatures. Though the chain's cage-free plans was later than other fast good companies, it announced its pork stall decision in 2014.

(AP)

Shake Shack will use only cage-free eggs by 2017

Shake Shack is already known for its cage-free, antibiotic free chicken and hormone free beef. Now the chain is stepping up their egg game. Danny Meyer’s burger joint has vowed to buy and use only cage-free eggs by the end of 2016. Even though most locations don’t serve breakfast, Shake Shack uses eggs in its signature ShackSauce and frozen custard used to make its famous concretes. The chain already uses cage-free eggs in all breakfast sandwiches—which were introduced to limited locations in 2013. They also use cage-free eggs for the Buttermilk Herb Mayo served on the Chick’n Shack.

Papa John's

The promise: By summer 2016, Papa John’s will start using chicken raised without antibiotics, and on a 100-percent vegetarian diet. Papa John's serves grilled chicken on pizzas and as a side in the form of "poppers."

Where they stand: It's the first national pizza chain to make such a commitment.  But the pizza chain hasn't gotten high grades on going healthy.  It recently earned an “F” on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s antibiotics report card for having no apparent policy with regard to antibiotics.

General Mills

The promise: Reduction of sodium by 20 percent in 10 product categories by 2015; eliminate artificial additives and colors from all its cereals by 2017; only cage-free eggs by 2025.

Where they stand: General Mills said on Dec. 15 that it had reduced sodium by at least 20 percent in seven out of 10 product categories, fewer than it had targeted. It also missed targets in ready-made soups like Progresso (18 %) and dinners like Old El Paso (19 %).  But it exceeded goals in savory snacks, with a reduction of 35 percent and frozen pizza at 29 percent. The change to cage-free eggs will affect the recipes of products like Pillsbury refrigerated cookie dough and Toaster Strudel pastries. 

(General Mills, Pillsbury)

Kraft

The Promise: Removal of artificial dyes by 2016. 

In April, Kraft announced that the original version of its Macaroni & Cheese dinner sold in the U.S. will no longer contain artificial preservatives of synthetic colors. In Jan., the signature neon orange hue will come from natural ingredients like paprika, annatto and turmeric.

(Kraft)

McDonald's

The promise: McDonald’s is transitioning to eggs from cage-free hens in the U.S. and Canada over the next 10 years. 

Where they stand: McDonald’s is one of the largest single buyers of eggs in the U.S., using over two billion annually to make breakfast items like the signature McMuffin. In March it stopped selling chicken treated with antibiotics at its U.S. locations and promised to stop using milk that comes from cows who have been treated with the artificial growth hormone rBST.

(AP)

Taco Bell & Pizza Hut

The promise: Earlier this year, Yum Brands, the owner of Taco Bell and Pizza Hut pledged to get rid of artificial flavors and colors by the end of 2016. (So for example, the chain's nacho cheese no longer will be colored with yellow No. 6.). The chain said it would also take out additives like added trans fats and hopes to remove additional artificial preservatives and additives by the end of 2017.  Pizza Hut, which said it has already eliminated trans fats and monosodium glutamate from its food, pledged to remove artificial colors and flavors from its nationally available pizzas by the end of July. In November, Taco Bell also pledged  that only cage-free eggs would be served across it 6,000 domestic units by the end of 2016.

 

Hershey Company

The promise: In June, the Hershey Company said it had begun swapping out the artificial ingredient “vanillin” and replacing it with real vanilla in its chocolate bars. Then in November, they added its iconic Kisses to the list. They've already made the change, which is part of a bigger pledge to remove to remove all artificial ingredients from the chocolates.

Jack in the Box

The promise:  Jack in the Box said it will be switching to 100 percent cage-free eggs in the next 10 years. It hopes to have the majority of its egg-supply cage-free by 2020 and to fully implement the transition by 2025. The chain says it has informed egg suppliers of their expectations and timeline.

Chipotle

The promise:  Chipotle announced in late April that it was “the first national restaurant company to use only non-GMO ingredients.”  They removed GMO corn from the tortillas, chips and salsa, and GMO soy oil from all of the food they serve. But a lawsuit in California is challenging this claim. Among the problems: the meat and dairy products Chipotle serves come from animals that consume genetically modified food, and it serves soft drinks that contain GMO ingredients.

Panera Bread

The promise: Panera Bread will ditch more than 150 food additives by the end of 2016,  including artificial colorings, preservatives and monosodium gluatamate, or MSG. 

Where they stand: Panera was not first --or last -- to embrace "all natural" and ditch artificial ingredients. But it was among the most transparent with its "no-no" list detailing what was being scrapped.  The company says it will not use any high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners — such as aspartame and Ace-K — in its menu items.  But some food activists say its not meeting its promise because it continues to sell beverages, such as sodas and diet-colas, that contain these sweeteners. 

Keeping track of promises made by big food companies

From cage free eggs to antibiotic-free meats and ditching artificial ingredients, big food companies like Taco Bell, Subway, General Mills, McDonald's and more are promising to revamp their food supply for the greater good. Check out the big changes coming to your favorite food chains in the coming years--and see if they're keeping their promises. 

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