Panera is dropping Charged Lemonade, the subject of multiple wrongful death lawsuits

ByJordan Valinsky CNNWire logo
Wednesday, May 8, 2024
Panera is dropping Charged Lemonade, the subject of multiple lawsuits
Panera Bread is eliminating Charged Lemonade, the beverage that has sparked multiple lawsuits and caused a public relations nightmare for the company.

NEW YORK -- Panera Bread is eliminating Charged Lemonade from its menu, the caffeinated beverage that has sparked multiple lawsuits and caused a public relations nightmare for the company.

The Charged Lemonades will come off the menu in the next two weeks, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news. The chain declined to comment to CNN on the timeline of the drinks' removal.

Panera has faced at least three separate lawsuits over the lineup of controversial drinks in recent months, claiming that the high levels of caffeine in the product has led to the deaths of two customers and irreversible health complications in another.

A Panera spokesperson said new drinks will replace it, including low-sugar and low-caffeine options, including a new blueberry lavender lemonade, pomegranate hibiscus tea, citrus punch and a tropical green smoothie.

The lineup of Charged Lemonades was introduced in April 2022, tied with the release of its beverage subscription program that let people get as many soft drinks and coffees as they wanted each day for $10.99 per month. (The price has since increased to $14.99 per month.)

Panera kept the Charged Lemonades on the menu, despite the controversies, because experts say removing the drink immediately could have come across as an implied admission that something was wrong with it in the first place.

"Very often in lawsuits, there is a knee-jerk reaction among lawyers to do as little as possible publicly out of some vague fear that you are exposing yourself to additional liability," crisis PR expert James Haggerty previously told CNN, noting that this approach can have a detrimental effect on the market value of a company, at times to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Haggerty added that it's a "cost-benefit analysis ... the loss of reputational value will often outweigh anything that occurs in the courtroom."

Last month, Panera revamped its offerings with its "largest menu transformation ever" that refocused its selection on sandwiches, soups, salads and macaroni and cheese. A number of items got the ax too, including flatbreads, several sweet treats and chili.

"We are excited to continue the success of our recent menu transformation, which began with our core options of sandwiches and salads," a Panera spokesperson said about the revamp. "We listened to more than 30,000 guests about what they wanted from Panera, and are focusing next on the broad array of beverages we know our guests desire."

The changes come as Panera is planning to go public again later this year. In November 2023, the chain laid off 18% of its corporate workforce, amounting to 300 people, and Reuters recently reported that it's loosening the standards it sets for its ingredients in an effort to save $20 million annually.