I think 2015 will go down as the year that food manufacturers and restaurants started ditching ingredients based on consumer input. Last week, Chipotle announced it was going mostly GMO-free. Earlier in the year, Kraft announced it was taking the artificial colors out of Original Macaroni & Cheese, Dunkin’ Donuts removed a chemical whitening agent, McDonald’s pledged to serve antibiotic-free chicken, and Hershey’s said its most popular chocolates will go GMO-free. I could go on, but you get the gist. Big name food companies are making a big deal about removing undesirable ingredients.

The latest big deal is Panera’s announcement that it's making headway on its pledge to remove all artificial preservatives, colorings, sweeteners and flavors from its food. Panera has published “The No No List,” a list of 150+ ingredients that have been removed or will be removed from its food by the end of 2016. The list is color-coded so you can tell easily which ingredients have yet to be removed.

In promotional videos like the one above, Panera says, “If the ingredients in your food are unpronounceable, we believe they shouldn’t be in your food.”

Panera's No No list of ingredients

Panera gets transparent about its ingredients, including the ones it won't be using. (Photo: Panara/Shutterstock)

Starting tomorrow, Panera’s salad dressings will be “clean,” according to USA Today. The reformulated salad dressings will be made without artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives. But not all salad ingredients are where the company would like them to be yet. Ingredients like croutons, tortilla strips, pepperoncini and bacon are “still evolving to meet the 2015 commitment.”

What ingredients have been removed from specific menu items? USA Today listed some examples: Cellulose gel and artificial flavors have been removed from the poppy seed dressing, and hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, autolyzed yeast extract, and modified corn starch have been removed from the chicken noodle soup.

This type of transparency is what many consumers are looking for, particularly millennials. Consumers want to know what's in their food and what's not in their food. They also want to know what companies are doing to continue to make progress. 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.