MILFORD, Conn. — Subway, the world’s largest quick-service restaurant chain with more than 43,000 restaurants in 110 countries, has joined the list of companies eliminating artificial ingredients.
The sandwich chain known for its “Eat Fresh” marketing slogan said it will remove all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from all of its menu items in North America by 2017.
“Removing some of these ingredients will be relatively straightforward,” said Elizabeth Stewart, director of corporate social responsibility for the Subway brand. “Others will require significantly more effort by the Subway internal R&D team and our partners because of our size and scope. But, we felt it was important to set an ambitious goal as a means to give us something to shoot for and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to wellness.”
To kick off its latest initiative, Subway said it will roll out a new roast beef recipe, roasted with garlic and pepper, to its more than 27,000 US restaurants. The recipe contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. In August, the restaurant chain plans to introduce a new, improved ham that also will be free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
The announcement comes at a challenging time for Subway, which last year saw US store sales average $475,000, a 3 percent decline from the previous year, according to industry tracker Technomic.
The new roast beef recipe is the latest phase on Subway’s plan to improve the food it serves, a journey that began in 2008 with the removal of trans fats from all core menu items. In 2009, the company launched a global sodium reduction initiative, which was followed by the fortification of its US bread varieties with calcium and vitamin D in 2011.
Subway picked up the pace last year, when it removed azodicarbonamide from all its bread, introduced new premium-cut white meat chicken strips with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, removed high-fructose corn syrup from its sandwiches and salads, increased whole grains and removed caramel coloring from 9-Grain Wheat bread, and removed caramel color from steak and pastrami.
“Back in 1965, when Fred DeLuca and Dr. Peter Buck opened their first sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Conn., they had a simple goal: give their neighbors and customers easy access to good, quality food at a great value,” Stewart said. “Today, Subway has thousands of locations, but we still uphold the same standards. We are committed to choice and quality, but we also take wellness and environmental responsibility very seriously. The new menu items we are introducing are perfect examples of how we plan to continuously improve to serve our customers.”
The past month has been a busy one for companies making a commitment to cleaner products. Pizza Hut in late May announced plans to remove artificial flavors and colors from its pizzas by the end of July. The chain, a business unit of Yum! Brands, Inc., has worked for more than a year with suppliers to reformulate its menu and eliminate many artificial additives that are common across the industry supply chain. The announcement followed a similar commitment from sister brand Taco Bell, which said it will remove artificial flavors and colors by the end of 2015 and artificial preservatives and additives by the end of 2017.
Earlier, Panera Bread published its “No No List” of ingredients that will not be used to formulate its products. Some ingredients on the chain’s No No List include acesulfame K, autolyzed yeast extract, high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, microparticulated whey protein concentrate and others. The company’s goal is to remove the ingredients on the list from the formulation of its menu items by the end of 2016.