Bakery chain Panera Bread says it pledges to keep ingredients “clean and simple,” removing artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives from its food by 2016. The announcement comes as Panera is facing slowing sales growth and hoping to kickstart its business. The bakery café chain, which has about 1,800 U.S. locations, says it’s making the move as part of a "Food Policy" that outlines its commitment to such ingredients.

The unveiling of Panera's sweeping policy underscores how positioning foods as “natural” is become a marketing advantage, regardless of whether it brings any nutritional benefits, though it can also carry criticism and even legal trouble.