- Panera Bread released a limited-edition swimwear collection that is available via a dedicated e-commerce site and designed for customers who eat soup even in hot weather, the company confirmed in an email.
- The bakery chain conducted a survey of 700 people in the U.S. and found 70% stick with soup even in warmer seasons. With July expected to be one of the hottest months on record, the brand is catering to consumers who may be hitting the beach or pool more frequently.
- Offerings in the Swim Soup line-up include one piece swimsuits and swim trunks themed around menu items like broccoli cheddar soup ($25 each) and a bread bowl pool float ($20). Panera, which worked with brand activation platform Fooji on the effort, joins other restaurant marketers in extending into merchandise to engage die-hard fans.
Panera is enacting an e-commerce play to reach the surprisingly large contingent of its customer base that eats soup regardless of the temperature outside. The limited-run merchandise — complete with a pool float shaped like one of the chain's signature bread bowls — arrives as record-setting heat waves cook Western states in the U.S.
Experts have attributed the extreme weather events rocking many parts of North America this summer to climate change. Marketers have increasingly tackled climate change in their consumer-facing outreach as they try to position their businesses around sustainability. Panera is acknowledging more people may be searching for means to cool off without addressing the issue head-on.
The Swim Soup line's focus on e-commerce aligns with how other quick-service marketers are attempting to grow loyalty and build out a lifestyle positioning with devoted followers. Rivals like Dunkin' and McDonald's have dropped similar capsule collections designed around specific events or favor for particular menu items. As data mandates change with the pending death of third-party cookies, these tactics can be a method of acquiring more information on consumers that can then be used to inform future marketing strategies.
Other recent brand-building initiatives from Panera include a bagel giveaway earlier this month to customers who received the COVID-19 vaccine. The company in May refreshed its brand identity for a more contemporary look, tapping BrandOpus to oversee changes encompassing its packaging, restaurant décor, signage, website and mobile app. Like many quick-service brands, Panera is doubling down on store concepts centered around drive-thru and digital technology due to changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
Panera has experienced some bumps in the road amid the radical shift to digital and mobile ordering. In the spring, it closed down a pioneering self-delivery channel established in 2016 even as delivery sales surged more broadly.