Tom Gumpel is the head baker for Panera Bread. Panera Bread has decided to jump into the gluten-free TREND. Tom Gumpel is not happy about this. This does not bode well for the celiac community.
Arrogance and ignorance are not our friend (are they anybody’s friend??)
Let’s start with the arrogance.
Here are some of Mr. Gumpel’s quotes:
“Bread has been just beaten up. You have 10,000 years of bread in some form or function, and then all of a sudden this generation has just killed it. Whether it’s the carbohydrates, low-carb, gluten [free], pick something.” (entrepreneur.com)
That’s right Tom…this health-conscious generation is just killing the bread industry. Silly us trying different things so we can feel better. Adapt or find another job.
“There are some pretty poor gluten-free breads out there, so I went into this kicking and screaming. Once I committed to it, I said to myself, ‘how would you pull this off as an artisan baker?’ There is little to no good-tasting gluten-free bread in this country, and I’ve eaten about every slice there is. We are responding to peoples requests and doing it with integrity.” (thedailymeal.com)
Thanks so much Tom for coming to our rescue. We’ve been waiting for someone just like you to FINALLY deliver real gluten-free bread. You’re my hero!!!
Wait…hold on…my inner voice is saying something. What’s that? There are other companies out there already making good gluten-free bread? Like gfJules, Three Bakers, Canyon Bakehouse, Udi’s?
Ah…never mind Tom, you’re not my hero. You actually sound like a misinformed egomaniac. Please…don’t do me any favors.
Moving onto ignorance.
Panera is making the gluten-free bread with 100% gluten-free ingredients. Yay…it’s gluten-free!
Panera is making the gluten-free bread in a gluten-free facility. Yay…it’s gluten-free!
Panera is displaying and storing the gluten-free bread next to the regular menu items. What??
They are not even calling it gluten-free. They are calling it…ugh…gluten conscious.
Gluten conscious. Let that sink in a bit.
So let me get this straight…you don’t WANT to do this, you feel like you HAVE to do this; you are taking all of the right precautions in baking the bread, but then cross-contaminating the hell out of it; and then you’re coming up with a ridiculous term for it, making it that much more difficult for the celiac community to be taken seriously.
Look…I’ve said hundreds of times that celiacs don’t own gluten-free. Panera Bread is a business. And the number one goal of any business is to make money. And they will do whatever it takes to reach that goal. But please don’t act like you are doing the world a big favor and lowering your standards so you can appease the gluten-free community.
Speaking for myself…I’m just not that desperate for your bread.
Consider this a “conscious uncoupling”.
60 thoughts on “The Arrogance and Ignorance of Panera Bread”
My head would explode if I hadn’t already caved it in with the world’s hardest facepalm.
…I love this comment. So much.
Wow. Hadn’t heard this joyful news yet. Another reluctant entry into the GF space, and not doing it right? I’m so surprised. Methinks they shouldn’t have let the chef out of the kitchen to talk to the press ….
And “Gluten Conscious?” So it’s something like, “We’re conscious of the fact that we’ve contaminated this bread with gluten”???
I guess we’ll never know if his bread is any good or not — too bad I’ll have to stick to the delicious ones we DO have available that are safe for us to enjoy. Thanks for the shout-out for my GF bread mix, and to other companies who work hard to make truly good gluten free bread for those of us who can’t dabble in “gluten conscious” or “gluten lite.”
I hope they waste money on gluten-free bread creation and it is a big flop. This guy seems so egotistic that he will probably blame the gluten-free community on it failing. His ideals could never be the problem…
Our family hasn’t eaten in a Panera in almost 10 years and we won’t be going any time soon. Gluten-free bread or not.
Sorry Jules, I wanted to post a thumbs up to you and a post to the whole thing.
We love your products and are thankful you are out there.
I call it gluten friendly. It means if you have celiac’s disease then don’t eat. If you have hashimoto’s or are going gluten free then you can eat it. Panera is correct in what they are saying. There are more options out there. Be happy because Panera is trying
Thanks to The Real Jules at gfJules.com and the Dude for sending me to Jules, I have no need to visit the Panera Bread which opens in our neighborhood this week!
I’m finally ahead of the CD curve and my only challenge is figuring out how to refrain from eating the entire loaf of Jules’ bread hot from the oven, but hey, after 3 years of no hot loaf bread, Jules’ bread is worth the challenge!
Sounds more like Gluten unconscious!
I am so disgusted. Not that I’m a huge fan of Panera, but it would have been nice. So, like many I was “Yea!” “Yea!” “What the (bleep)???” It was a huge “We listened, but we really don’t care.”
I hate going out to eat. I have one or two places I have had great luck with right now. Used to be more, but we moved and I’m finding the new places. I recently had a wonderful visit to Universal Studios FL, who got it. But, that’s not always the norm. I have monthly social obligations that always involve eating, and I’m the one who eats beforehand, and answers the questions. I loathe going to my parent’s houses, while they understand and try, I’m bringing my own pots and cooking my own food, because they are not always comscious about what they are doing. Nor, should they be, because it’s not their life, but when they also say, so let’s go out and I have to say we can’t eat there….. And then going to a new area and having to research where I can eat…… It gets exhausting.
And now, another big fat “we really don’t care.” Right smack in our faces.
Kather, there’s an app called Find Me Gluten Free that might help you if you use smartphone apps. I heard about it from a fellow gluten-intolerant person on a trip to NYC, and it’s been such a HUGE blessing when I travel! I believe they have a website, too, which you can use if you don’t have a smartphone.
Thanks, PT! I actually do have the app, and it is wonderful. It’s how I found a real honest-to-goodness GF bakery 10 min from my house. I just hate the fact I have to do the reaseach. and, I’m trained as a reference librarian, lol!
But, thanks, and I will definitely add my thumbs-up to that app.
Tom strikes me as a bit of an idiot. I’d give him a pass on not namechecking *every* last GF baker – in his own words “I’ve eaten about every slice there is”. That’s hyperbole and nothing more, and the word ‘about’ qualifies it as such. It’s rather like Carlsberg saying ‘Probably the best beer in the world”
I’m not sure I’d count coelaics as part of the ‘Health Conscious’ brigade. Are we? Really? I mean, I eat GF because I have to, but I don’t consider myself health conscious. 🙂 I’m gettin’ my ass home from work and sitting down with some GF chips’n’dip and cider, and doing a Back to the Future trilogy marathon.
Otherwise, yup, Tom needs a bit of a reality check. We don’t need to be patronised by him and his ilk. “gluten conscious?”. Oh please!
peace out, folks
When this article first came out I went to the Panera page and left a comment. Yesterday I started scrolling through other comments out of curiosity, and started noticing a trend. A LOT of people were complaining about Panera’s attitude towards them; subpar food assembly, crappy customer service and and an inability to be heard by management. Now the gf bread debacle makes sense. Panera doesn’t really care about anyone, and it will be interesting to see how long the company lasts.
Even if they were keeping it separate, I wouldn’t risk it. Having gone into more than a few Paneras before I started getting sick, they didn’t really have that much production counter space, so if you wanted anything prepared, it very likely wouldn’t be on a sanitized or dedicated surface. I’ve gotten sick off the salads before due to all the bread crumbs flying and the fact that pretty much every surface is coated in a fine dusting… dropped them like a hot rock after that. That aside, Mr. Gumpel’s comments are making that bad taste in my mouth even worse.
The sickest I’ve gotten to date was after a meal at Panera. Going there was definitely a total brain fart and part of the very steep learning curve shortly after going gluten free. I realized as I was eating my salad and watching my sister-in-law break her bread across from me with all the little airborne flour particles dancing in the sunlight that I was in big trouble. Needless to say, that wasn’t the most productive shopping trip. Alas.
Well written piece and certainly right on target. I have a feeling the interviewee will be regretting his words before too long. Ah, then…perhaps they left the ‘r’ out of his last name?
What’s most unsettling, is they are pandering to those who are clearly either self-diagnosed, or delusional in thinking that eating GF is a healthy choice in the absence of any identifiable medical condition. In either scenario, there would be a lack of education and/or ignorance regarding cross contamination for those willing to eat the bread.
It’s most unfortunate that, once again, a company of this size isn’t properly informed and able to make the distinction between a fad and a disease. It will be very difficult to see this introduced, knowing that for those of us who truly need to eat GF, what they have on offer is toxic. The celiac community gains absolutely nothing.
Yes, my thoughts exactly! Thank you for being so articulate.
Please don’t knock the self diagnosed crowd. Not everyone has access to a supportive doctor and/or insurance coverage for proper testing.
I think she is referring to those who self-diagnose but don’t take it seriously. I understand that not everyone has the benefit of a diagnosis.
Andrea, I understand your frustration, but it seems like Colette is referring to the individuals who don’t take “gluten free” seriously. Fortunately, it sounds like you do. Quick story: I have Celiac & keep a low profile about it at work. However, a new co-worker showed up last year and told EVERYONE that she was gluten free & then proceeded to eat a piece of gluten-filled chocolate cake in front of everyone. She then proceeded to joke with me about it (haha, do u want any & I’ll only get the runs from this). This created a confusing , stressful mess at work & that’s been a lot of fun to deal with. When I brought in an epi-pen, they finally left me alone.
JFC. Only in ‘murica. Anything to make a buck and spread more misinformation.
Never was a fan of Panera, and now I’m even less of a fan.
It’s such a shame that they won’t go the extra mile to make the bread truly Celiac safe, It seems like they’re not even going to attempt to train their staff in even the most basic safe food handling practices.
Hahaha, I know! I just shook my head the moment I saw the headline. I didn’t even need to read about it to know that it wouldn’t be safe. Anyway, I feel like a celiac shouldn’t even breathe in Panera BREAD! Haha!
No, we definitely shouldn’t!
Honestly…I wish they’d do it right. There are Paneras almost everywhere, and it would make traveling a little easier. And, yeah. I eat GF because I must, not by choice. I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 50–I still miss wheat, rye, and barley.
What’s with the strike out of Udi’s in the sentence? Seems a little passive aggressive. While Udi’s isn’t the absolute best GF bread I’ve found, it’s more than respectable and tolerable.
Udi’s GF bread is hole-y enough that they could use it for communion. A recurring theme on this blog. GD has received and posted tons of pics of Udi’s bread from readers that would put any brick of swiss cheese right to shame.
I have two thoughts….
1. It’s Panera. The land of unrestrained bread. Why oh why would you ever even “think” of trying to go down the GF path? As a non-CD-GF-friend/supporter/AI-necessity, I wouldn’t even dream of entering into a Panera Bread, and I don’t even have CD, just AI, but I live with the same restrictions. Why would Panera even attempt to go there?
2. Several years ago (and my last time there), I complained because I couldn’t find a table to eat my lunch with my friend because all of the tables were taken up by long-timers sitting solo on their laptops… most of which didn’t even have as much as a cup of coffee. I complained and was told that they have as much right to sit at these tables.
Alrighty then… my hard earned dollars are going elsewhere. OH wait… I stopped supporting them several years ago!
Gluten Conscious bread isn’t going to get all the faddies to slim down like they think. And how much you want to bet Panera Tom’s great contribution to all things gluten free is tossing more sugar into his recipe? At least the lawyers did their job protecting the corporation from the celiacs they’d be exposing if they claimed the bread was GF rather than only ‘conscious.’
The arrogance and condescension are over the top, and then they make it worse by sticking it in with regular bread, and don’t designate what it is?! Wow, just wow. No thanks Panera, I won’t be that stupid in this lifetime. Hello, ever heard of cross contamination, Tom? Didn’t think so. I will stick to Canyon Bakehouse and making my own.
Gluten isn’t something that cross-contaminates. You probably don’t even know that it’s a protein and that it helps bind bread together. It’s not going to migrate. You’re probably not even sensitive to it, most people with “gluten sensitivity” are really people who are eating too many processed starches. When they cut back on gluten they are cutting back on processed starches, and they feel better. Unless you have celiac disease, it’s all in your head.
You are a TROLL that hasn’t a clue. I guess you work at Panera lol Or maybe you’re one of those insensitive doctors who lack compassion for others and think they are God. Either way you suck at life. Go troll somewhere else.
Headline at themighty.com: “Panera’s New Menu Item Is Long Overdue”.
Really? What’s so “long overdue” about little to no CC safeguarding? If anything, it’s totally played.
As for “gluten-conscious” instead of GF — I guess if you’re going to do something half-assed, you might as well do it *completely* half-assed.
No need repeating what your very informed followers have already said — and they covered all points very well. I have always felt that it is raining gluten in Panera, and I have not been there in years. Now, never ever for sure! I prefer Breads from Anna for delicious and nutritious bread! Keep up the great work, Dude!
So he says “There is little to no good-tasting gluten-free bread in this country, and I’ve eaten about every slice there is. ”
CLEARLY he’s clueless! This is the golden age of gluten free bread!
Someone point him to gfjules.com!
Arrogance? Maybe you should point the finger back at yourself. People who don’t live in or near urban centers have celiac and gluten intolerance, too. I’ve never even heard of the brands you listed, except Udi’s. We will welcome GF options at Panera regardless of the baker’s ignorance and the cross contamination, since the latter isn’t an issue for us.
Not sure I understand. You would eat their bread even though Panera themselves says it’s not recommended for celiacs or those with NCGS? This is not about convenience. It’s about safety and their overall attitude. And there are plenty of great breads out there, all available online, if that option is available to you.
By the way…love your movies. Thought you were great in Dead Poets Society.
(Yes…I know that’s Ethan Hawke)
Too bad for Panera, there are plenty of excellent bread recipes out there for Gluten Free bread.
I’ve tried many in my search for good bread. So if Panera doesn’t want my business, that’s fine. And I will have it hot out of the oven.
Someone actually has a job of going around and rating gluten-free bread!!?? And then writes snarky comments……he must be exhausted at the end of the day.
I am not celiac, but I have eliminated gluten for other health reasons, per doctors suggestions. Some family members didn’t understand that it is not a pick and chose diet. A little bit is not okay. I may not have as serious or immediate effects from cross contamination but this drives me nuts! There are no exclusively gluten free bakeries close to me, so if I want to pick up a muffin at the grocery store who sells “no gluten added” muffins in the display case, unwrapped, along side all the other gluten-full foods I have to take my chances. Or order a gluten free pizza from the pizza place where they ask if “it is an allergy or preference”, and wonder why they don’t treat all GF orders as though they are allergies. ??
I actually really LIKE Panera because they are so awesome at donating their left over bread through their “Dough-Nation” program. Can I eat the bread and pastries I bag up and hand out weekly at our food pantry? No. Do I even feel tempted to take a crumb of any of it? No, never. Because I know that it would make me deathly ill and because I am a grown-up, I don’t even, ever want to eat it. But lots of people who couldn’t afford a loaf of bread even from the dollar store get to have great breads for their families. As for me? I will eat my usual Glutino and Against the Grain and enjoy every bite. It’s a shame Panera feels it has to jump into a segment of the business where they obviously don’t want to be. No “real” celiac would think of eating their bread – it is for those who aren’t “that kind of gluten free” (as a waitress recently asked me if I was). So we can just move along.
This whole “let’s join the trend” attitude by these companies and restaurants puts those of us with CD at risk more than simply dining at their businesses. Now our well meaning friends, coworkers,
and relatives will buy these products and be offended by our inquiries about them and our refusal to eat them, especially since someone else they know that went GF to lose weight or whatever has no problem consuming this stuff. I already have plenty enough alienation as it is. So Panera, no thanks, I would have rather had fond memories of past pleasant experiences, than the very unpleasant ones that are sure to come.
Oh I needed that laugh! Gluten conscious. My favorite new saying!!! Thanks
Hmmm…. True, Tom’s quotes don’t help Panera’s case. Has the writer of this article witnessed a Panera display with this new bread? Have any of the commentors seen a display with the gf bread? Might it be possible to package the bread before display in a way to keep it ‘clean’? I guess I will wait to see before judging so harshly….
In my 6 short months of purgatory I have discovered two camps on the topic of restaurants and GF. Some places “get it” and go to all the steps necessary to provide a safe dining experience. My favorite that falls into that camp is a Mexican chain called Costa Vida. I have never been sickened eating there and the food is actually passable.
The other group of eateries I call “Gluten Free” with the quotes. They are providing GF food just to satisfy Mack-Kay-Lyee and her friends that want to eat GF but “Can you please bring me a side of breadsticks as well?” The best example I have found of this is Red Robin. they offer a gluten free bun, that they toast on the same spot on the grill as all their regular buns.
I actually really like Panera (their Cuban is fantastic) and have missed it greatly. it looks like I will continue to miss it.
I don’t really see it as ignorance as much as honesty. If they were claiming their bread was gluten free and safe for celiacs that would be ignorant. What’s wrong with honestly admitting that there is very likely cross-contamination and it is not appropriate for celiacs? So then the question is, why make gluten-“free” bread that gluten-free people can’t eat, and the answer is purely that whether there’s any logic behind it or not there IS a huge market for it right now. May just be a fad but right now there’s plenty people jumping on the bandwagon. So if there’s people willing to fork over $ for something then businesses will sell it. There’s really no way a bakery can offer something that would be appropriate for true gluten intolerance so why criticize them?
No company can cater to everyone’s needs. Panera seems to at least be making an attempt. Don’t knock a company because of what one employee releases to media as it will constantly be misconstrued on either side. If you don’t care for the product..simply don’t go. They do have menu items already gluten free, their turkey chili is delicious. I visited a local Panera with family that I was visiting and inquired about gluten free items and the cashier went and brought out the manager who took the time to sift through their nutritional book and after personally taking my order proceeded to inform the employees to prepare my meal after washing their hands and changing their gloves. I thought that was a kind gesture. My point is that I feel like the experience I had at Panera was welcoming and accommodating to my needs, but I do understand that the same experience may not be received by others.
Stopped by my local Panera and asked if they had a gf menu or suggestion. Got a “deer in the headlights” look. Then she just shook her head.
Left and will nevet go back.
My local Panera has a three ring binder listing all the allergens that are in their menu items. When I ask if someone is gluten free, they pull the binder and look it up, right at the register.
BTW, their “Summer Corn Chowder” is fantastic!
Also, here’s a link to Panera’s GF menu: https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/articles/avoiding-gluten.html
My experience came this summer. After removing gluten from my daughter’s diet back in the spring we had decided to stop at Panera b/c my older daughter was wanting soup. After asking for the allergen menu (there website was down when I searched that morning) I was greeted with a huff & puff. Then was handed the nutritional menu. After mentioning it wasn’t the correct menu I received another huff and puff. Yay! I’m super stoked now & my husband was pissed. And we know that Every kid wants to eat a salad ALL the time, which was the only option for a child. The only soup they had was corn chowder, and every kid Loves corn chowder, right?! Oh, but they had a gluten free cookie…lets eat a cookie for lunch please. I was livid!!! And after reading this article my opinion is “what a$$holes”. Not everyone is “choosing” to eliminate gluten. So, I guess he’s one that thinks it won’t hurt someone with an allergy to eat what their allergic to “every once in a while” or “just a little bit”. What a pompous jerk
Seems like someone with a gluten allergy would want to avoid a place chuck full of gluten…their name is Panera Bread…? I understand wanting a gluten free option, but a bakery that has flour and bread everywhere just doesn’t seem like a common sense option.
Heaven forbid that people take personal responsibility. If I want to eat a meat-free meal, I’m not going to go to a steak house. And if I do, I shouldn’t become livid if all the entrees have meat or get angry at the waitstaff for having no vegetarian entrees!
I agree with you to a point Michelle. BUT this is more about how Panera went into this like they HAD to and then just making a mockery out of it.
Gluten free is a new issue. This really started in 1998 when the US govt, in all their wisdom, decided to start adding folic acid to wheat. That’s right about the time people became gluten sensitive. Celiac disease is another story.
If most people who think they must be gluten free can avoid folic acid they will be fine eating gluten, which had been in bread since forever. We all grew up eating bread and this isn’t some new thing. The new thing is folic acid as in “enriched” wheat flour.
So not to side with anyone here, both sides are correct.
There is a sensitivity now, and gluten has always existed. We should petition the govt to remove folic acid, which isn’t needed by humans.
Folic acid was added to stop neural tube defects for babies who’s mom’s didn’t eat a ought veggies. You get the natural form of Folic acid called FOLATE when you eat proper amount of veggies. Therefore Folic acid isn’t needed. In fact, Folic acid blocks folate receptors and then free floats in the body causing high homocystine, which causes the number 1 killer … heart disease.
It can also cause bowel issues.
Avoid folic acid and find non enriched bread and try it… you’ll be surprised that you won’t get sick.
I am literally sitting in the parking lot of a Panera, and looked them up to see if they joined the GF bandwagon. I find this very enlightening & entertaining article informing me that Panera didn’t join the bandwagon, they had a severe case of road rage with it instead, and after insulting it and flipping it off, they went ahead and ran over the bandwagon altogether. I’ll be drivi g to the nearest Starbucks for a coffee now, as I watch Panera get get small in my rear view window.
Loved how you wrote this. You now have a new reader Gluten Dude!
I do have to say I’m overwhelmingly appalled that some limited thinking people still think GF is a choice… It’s like a peanut allergy!!
“Road rage”…I like that! And welcome.
Oh! This post is too awesoeme
Thank You for sharing
I suffer from Hashimotos, autoimmune Thyroid disease and had to eliminate wheat and soy from my diet. It’s not by dietary choice but because it will effect the health and functioning of my thyroid . My body has an intolerance to gluten. I find the remark by that head baker very insulting. I wouldn’t want to wish this or celiac disease on anyone . He acts as if everyone he is referring to just chose not to want to eat wheat. He is insensitive to people with autoimmune diseases.