Panera Sign - © Panera

Panera Discontinues ‘Charged Lemonade’ Drinks

Panera is dropping its controversial Charged Lemonade drinks from its menu. After months of scrambling to save the menu item – and its corporate reputation. Marking the final chapter in a sad tale of miscalculation and misinterpretation…

Charged Lemonade - © 2022 Panera

Last resort

Dropping the heavily caffeinated drinks was the last resort. Panera had been trying for months to create some kind of compromise that would have let it keep the ‘Charged’ bevs and, at the same time, preserve its public image.

The chain was hit, in short order, by three separate incidents involving its Charged Lemonade. In all three, a customer died after ‘overdosing’ on the caffeine-boosted concoctions.

Pre-existing conditions

Granted, each of the victims had pre-existing conditions that should have precluded them from consuming excess caffeine. But – though the fine print in the menu did mention the lemonade had added caffeine – Panera represented the beverage are having a ‘safe’ amount of the substance.

Panera said it followed all the rules formulating its Charged Lemonade. The company claimed the large-size serving of the beverage contained 390 mg of caffeine. That comes in just short of the maximum safe ‘dosage’ of caffeine for healthy adults as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: 400 mg. For comparison, that’s the equivalent of 4 to 5 cups of regular coffee.

But Panera also insisted that 390 mg of caffeine was the same amount as one cup of their Dark Roast coffee. For me, the math just doesn’t add up.

Extenuating circumstances

The victims were also subject to some extenuating circumstances. Not the least of which was that, in at least one case, the customer held a special ‘Sip Club’ membership, allowing her unlimited free refills. Her lunch companions reported she availed herself of more than one refill on the fatal day.

It’s believed she may have consumed more than 1,000 mg of caffeine.

Another possible miscalculation?

Another potential miscalculation may have come into play. Panera revealed, during the process of the wrongful death lawsuits it was slapped with, that its Charged Lemonades were mixed on site. Most other fountain drinks sold at restaurants come pre-mixed, from a facility where they are carefully concocted according to set recipes.

The Charged Lemonades were mixed by different employees on different days. And, therefore, may have varied in caffeine content.

My take

It appears that the Charged Lemonade ‘brand’ just became too soiled and ugly, in marketing terms, to ever be successfully cleaned up. So the chain made the decision to cut the ‘Charged’ brand and all it’s negative connotations loose. Before too much of its dirt rubbed off on the ‘Panera’ name…

~ Maggie J.