Panera Aims To Make Its Menu 50% Plant-Based By Next Year

Panera Bread, inventor of the "St. Louis bagel," has made a noble New Year's resolution: by 2021, CEO Niren Chaudhary told Business Insider, the chain aims to get away from its carb-based roots and make half the offerings on its menu entirely plant-based. Currently about a quarter of Panera menu items are vegetarian, though Chaudhary added, "With just one customization, 60% of our menu is plant-based."

The decision is based on Panera's observation that customers—younger customers in particular—have been trying to eat less meat not just for health reasons, but out of concern for animal welfare and the environment as a whole. The EPA reports that agriculture is responsible for 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the vast majority of that is devoted to raising animals and growing crops to feed them. (And yes, there are farmers who are raising animals responsibly and sustainably—Chipotle has made a point of sourcing its meat from them—but they are the minority.)

Sara Burnett, Panera's vice president of wellness and food policy, told Business Insider that the chain has considered other forms of sustainability, such as cutting back on water usage and electricity, doing more recycling, and using more environmentally friendly packaging, but she said that Panera has decided that it can have a bigger impact by serving more plants.

"We're really thinking about how do our ingredients, one, tastes great?" she said. "Two, then how do they have a positive effect on people and planet?"