Sweetgreen launches new seasonal menu, nixing bacon and sriracha

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From an email:

“I work with sweetgreen, the destination for simple, seasonal, healthy food, and wanted to share news of their new “Make America Healthy Again” campaign and simultaneous menu changes, designed to spark a dialogue around the food system and its relationship to our country’s health crisis.

At Sweetgreen, they feel it’s important to not only talk about the food system and how it’s connected to public health, climate change and the environment, but it’s important to take real steps to address these issues.

As part of this campaign, and furthering its overall goal of building healthier communities, Sweetgreen is launching a new seasonal menu May 24). In keeping with the seasons, Sweetgreen changes its menu five times a year, so it will have its usual seasonal additions (more on that if you’re interested!). But for this menu rollout, Sweetgreen went a little further. May 24th also marks the fleetwide launch of its new core menu, to which they have made the following changes:

    • They removed sriracha: The second ingredient in sriracha is sugar, so they removed it from all recipes, replacing it with the natural, sugar-free heat of dried chiles.

    • They removed bacon: Simply put, you can’t be a healthy food business and serve bacon. Removing bacon is another step to get the menu to a healthier, more wholesome place.

    • They added portobello mushrooms and sustainably farmed steelhead: The new Hello Portobello and OMG Omega bowls are rich and hearty in flavor, more nutritious and more compelling than the dishes they’re replacing (Avocobbo and Wild Child). The roasted portobello mix and steelhead toppings are delicious, versatile and sustainable.

Chef Stebner had some additional background to share, and you can read about it in this medium piece.”

65 Comment

  • When I first read this I just assumed Sweetgreen was trying to stay ahead of the trends. The bacon and sriracha on everything trend has been around for a while and people are getting bored with it.

  • “They removed sriracha”
    .
    I’m boycotting Sweet Green until they undo this.

  • I Dont Get It

    “They removed bacon”

    Sweetgreen you’re dead to me!

  • Clueless

    As long as they don’t remove the kale caesar, I’m good.

    • Ha ha ha! That was totally my thought. They also ceased filling the re-usable salad spinners. 🙁

  • Not the Wild Child! That was my go-to salad. I hope they still keep that miso dressing. Change is hard.

    • I’m glad I tried the Wild Child two weeks ago while I had the chance. I generally prefer lighter salads without grains, but it was wonderful if you’re into that sort of thing.

    • I loved the Wild Child! A manager at the Capitol Hill location told me a couple of months ago that it’s never been a good seller though.

      • There’s probably not a lot of overlap between the customers who get excited about beets and the customers that don’t balk at the higher-calorie options.

    • The miso dressing is in the new (to DC) OMG Omega, so it’ll be sticking around, and thank goodness. It’s my favorite dressing there and the only one I like that doesn’t leave my mouth tasting like it (and not in a good way) for the rest of the day (looking at you, cucumber yogurt and spicy cashew).

  • Blithe

    Out with the bacon and out with sriracha,
    in with the mushrooms and trout ’cause we got ya
    captive to salads and the hip vibe we bring
    We’re routing out all of your favorite things…..*

    Tune should be painfully obvious.

  • Ha, I must be the only person (besides Sweetgreen execs) that isn’t crazy about bacon or sriracha. I’d much rather have the dried chilis!

  • MVT

    I don’t care what ingredients they do or do not serve (that is their choice) but come on with giving me a speech about what is and what is not healthy. What’s the stance on heavy dressing?

    • And cheese…
      I think they cherry-picked the two unhealthly ingredients that people have very strong attachments to, in order to draw attention to their mission. So-called health nuts love drowning their food in sriarcha, apparently not realizing how sugary it is!

    • Tsar of Truxton

      I always find it hilarious when I see someone at Chop’t (or wherever) who insists on TONS of dressing. They might as well go get a burger.

      • Maybe they like salads more than burgers? Or want to get more vegetables into their diet? People aren’t necessarily selecting salad to lose weight.

      • Also it definitely depends on the dressing. I usually go with the tzatziki which is more or less yogurt and lemon and has very few calories/sugars/carbs. I’d have to eat a tub of it for it to equal a cheeseburger.

    • I agree.

      If they just quietly removed the items – fair play. Places do that all the time. But removing them with a sort of preachy attitude and press release – their attempt at getting good PR happens to grate my nerves.

  • I am regular Sweetgreen eater, but this is ridiuclous. The real threat to health at Sweetgreen is sodium. Their ingredients, particularly proteins, are loaded with salt. If they cared about health, they’d be doing something about salt and not worrying about the minuscule amount of sugar in Sriracha. I think they are taking themselves way too seriously.

    • Whereas sugar is indisputably evil, the jury’s out on whether salt is bad for most people.

      • This. I have low-normal blood pressure so I can eat all the salt I want. Thanks, genetics!

      • Sugar is indisputably evil? I don’t think that’s correct either. And while sodium isn’t universally bad either, in the quantities that it is in restaurant meals it is bad for 50-75% percent of the population (rough estimate). Yet we are focused on sugar, carbs and fat. Lack of sodium info gives us an incomplete nutrition and doesn’t give everyone the opportunity to make informed health choices.

    • I agree with this times a million.

    • Salt gets a bad rap. Sure, some people need to be especially low sodium, but it’s not at all clear that most people do. Frankly, I go to the Sweetgreen next the YMCA, and am usually needing some.

    • I’m not sure where you’re getting loaded with salt. If you take look at the menu ingredients PDF, the sodium in their SIGNATURE SALADS is between 635 mg (Guacamole Greens) to 1365 mg (Hummus Tahina), which are respectively under 1/3rd and slightly over 1/2 of the daily recommended amount. Most of their salad lean toward the 1/3rd side of the scale… so… that’s not really all that terrible.

      • So over half your daily salt intake in one salad and that doesn’t include their piece of bread or any modifications you might make. My point stands: they are picking and choosing their health battles with PR – not actual health – in mind. In addition, if you eat their as much as I do, you may question if their nutrition information is correct. They didn’t earn their name SaltyGreens by chance.

    • Hi James! We’d love to connect with you more. It’s because of guests like you that we feel compelled to do the things that we do. We have this great idea that as a fast food company, we can serve delicious whole foods, cooked from scratch, that just happen to be healthy. We have spent the better part of the last year innovating away from excessive added sugar in our recipes for drinks, dressings and toppings. We feel very good about the health of our menu, when it comes to the amounts of sugar, in fact all of our menu items & beverages fit into what the Harvard School of Public Health would deem as, “Healthy”. That being said we still have some work to do with our Sodium levels. Our plan is to attack this in the same incremental way we attacked Sugar, and over the next few seasons innovate our recipes to remove some of the extra salt. We have done some work by creating our own proprietary blend of Salt & Spices that allows us to achieve good flavor with less Sodium. Our commitment to you is that this work will continue, and that you will see a gradual decline in the amount of sodium you see in our dishes.

  • I am a huge sweetgreen fan. I always thought sweetgreen “got it” — that we need fats and maybe a few pita chips once in a while on our salads to be satisfied, and that we can still be healthy while we do it. I don’t eat bacon or sriracha, but this weird purity test sweetgreen seems to be adopting for ingredients — and the weirder idea that these two ingredients in particular are less healthy than others on the menu — makes me seriously question whether sweetgreen “gets it.” They would have been much better off, in my mind, saying “bacon and sriracha have had their day and now we are going to try some different things.”

  • There has to be something else they’re not disclosing about these ingredients that we don’t know. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I find it hard to believe they would drop these ingredients if they were super popular. Might the margins on these be a bit slim, or a SweetGreen (TM) brand sriracha sauce be in the mix?
    Also, let me get on my soapbox super quick and suggest that beets stain my shirt whenever I eat them, are pretty high in sugar, and taste like old shoes. I would gladly have these sacrificed instead.

    • Bingo. Sriracha is actually quite pricey on a per ounce basis – much more so than salad dressing or other condiments. They have a name brand product that is not perfectly substitutable, so Sriracha can charge a high premium and seek rents.
      High quality bacon is very expensive and time intensive to prepare. You can’t really get away with charging more than, say, $2 for a bacon add-on. Combine that with fairly low demand for bacon among the health conscious clientel that frequent SG, and it suddenly makes little sense to spend all that time and money having bacon ready for your customers. My guess is that there is a lot of wasted bacon at the end of the day that needs to be discarded.
      If SG really wanted to induce healthy behavior, it would lower the salt content in all its ingredients and reduce the amount of cheese it tosses into salads. Removing Sriracha is just laughable.

    • From one of two emails I received from them a couple months ago into an email I sent re: menu changes — “Changes are never easy, but we have been challenging ourselves to not just be a company that sells food because it sells.”
      .
      Ugh.

    • They are absolutely slim-margin ingredients. Yep.

  • I find the Make America Healthy again slogan to be more questionable than the removal of bacon and sriracha. Their locations and marketing cater exclusively to the narrow segment of America that’s already eating healthfully to begin with.

  • imply put, you can’t be a healthy food business and serve bacon. Removing bacon is another step to get the menu to a healthier, more wholesome place.

    Eye roll. EVERYTHING IN MODERATION. There’s nothing wrong with having bacon every once in awhile. Jesus.

    • +10000!

    • Especially if that bacon is peppered onto a nutrient-rich salad. If I hit my macros and track my calories, I’m being healthy even if I have a bit of bacon.

      I’ll find a place where I can get a salad without the side order of condescension.

  • Can we get them to remove the insects and other bugs from their salads? I personally found a small bug in my salad and because of their lackluster response (basically: our food is from a farm and we can’t help that it sometimes has bugs in it), my wife and I have never been back to sweetgreen. It used to be our favorite and most frequented restaurant.

    • Poor quality control is the kind of thing that makes people sick.
      Yea, you can help it by properly washing and checking the produce.

    • I haven’t been back since seeing the photo of the roach in the salad. That ruined it all for me.

    • Hi there! I stumbled across your comment and wanted to personally apologize for the bug you found in your salad. It’s so disappointing to hear that since the experience you have yet to come back. We’d love to talk to you more. Could you please reply to the original email you sent or shoot us a new one at sweetgreen.com/contact. We hope to hear from you soon!

  • They removed bacon and sriracha from their Dupont “test kitchen” location a while ago. I told them during a focus group that it was a bad idea and avoided that location because of it. As others have pointed out, these two ingredients in moderation aren’t necessarily worse for you than others, including the bread they offer with every salad. Very odd that they would so publicly announced it and do it in a way that pretty much precludes them from ever offering bacon again.

    • I have a roughly 5 paragraph email from corporate telling me why they’re removing frozen yogurt/pecans/etc. from a few months ago. It was also really odd. I haven’t been back since.

      • This is totally indicative of owners who are enamored with themselves as “visionary entrepreneurs” or some other BS spewed forth from start-up culture. I bet they are devotees of the Landmark Forum.

  • I didn’t even read the comments or this whole post yet, but I have a bone to pick with sweetgreen. I used to really like them (a healthy option but still some treats, everything in moderation right?). But I found out when I asked about their lack of frozen yogurt that they’re removing all sugar containing things (frozen yogurt, candied pecans, etc.) to be “healthy.”
    .
    Ok. Eating large quantities of sugar all day every day is not healthy. But now removing these other items (which obviously aren’t eaten in large quantities like a cup of frozen yogurt)…. Is it me or is this kind of attempt to be SUPER-healthy really really UNHEALTHY?
    .
    Honestly, sweetgreen has lost my business. I love veggies. I love natural food. But they’ve taken the joy out of it. There are other places to get my veggie fix.

    • Removing the fro-yo on that basis was just stupid. I had just assumed it was a business decision driven by lack of demand. People will go elsewhere to get their sugar fix and probably eat un-healthier treats (cookies, brownies, full fat ice cream, milkshakes, etc.)
      A “less evil” option is always preferred to the impossibility of perfection. We are not perfect.

      • I agree. And unlike ice cream, yogurt (even frozen) has so many good digestive properties!

    • Didn’t not like their frozen yogurt anyway. Don’t like the preachy attitude either. But do like their salads, so I’m still in.

  • Why isnt the Beets Dont Kale My Vibe a menu staple? Glad I had it on Monday didnt know it was on it’s way out

  • I only went for the Avocobbo. Oh well. Also, “proprietary umami seasoning”? Eww.

  • Removed bacon? Heard of ketogenic diet? Ridiculous.

  • justinbc

    We usually eat there several times a month, since it’s right below the VIDA we go to. The Avocabbo was one of my favorite salads there, but, oh well, I’ll find another. I’ve always liked that Sweetgreen continuously cycles through new menu items, and usually keeps them all within the same price point, so even if I have favorites I still regularly try new things from them. I laughed at the person who submitted the bug post a while back. We want our greens to be chemically untreated, yet expect every single one to be handwashed individually to ensure no bugs get in? Mmmk. People might be annoyed by the self-boasting pretentiousness of a PR stint, but basically every “brand” out there does this. It’s certainly less offensive than a Carl’s Jr. ad with a barely clothed lady slurping down burger juices…

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