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Sweetgreen Bans Bacon, Sriracha in a New Health Campaign

Sweetgreen eliminates bacon and Sriracha from menus nationwide in favor of steelhead trout (pictured) and mushrooms. Photograph via Facebook

Sweetgreen is doing the unthinkable, at least as far as marketing trends are concerned. At a time when chains rely on bacon and Sriracha as ingredient-hooks for millennials and others—see Denny’s bacon-Sriracha burger—the DC-based salad chain is eliminating both ingredients from their locations nationwide. The menu change, which starts today, is part of a new campaign on behalf of the business, “Make America Healthy Again.”

“Especially in the midst of a presidential election cycle, we need to be talking about the food system and how it’s connected to public health, climate change and the environment,” reads Sweetgreen’s mission statement. “We need to rethink how we define ‘healthy’ and take action.”

The new advocacy/marketing/educational campaign comes on the heels of Michelle Obama’s victorious unveiling of updated Nutrition Facts labels, which highlight new ingredient components like added sugars. The sweet stuff is what bars Sriracha from Sweetgreen’s menu—now spicing up your Sabzi, “the sugar-free heat of dried chilies.” As for bacon, there is no substitute. “Simply put, you can’t be a healthy food business and serve bacon,” says Sweetgreen.

While taking away certain salad components, the chain has added health-minded items like roasted portobello mushrooms and sustainably-raised steelhead trout—a fish with a rich, salmon-like flavor that’s rated a “best choice” by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch. In additional to new seasonal summer salads, changes to the core menu include the “OMG Omega,” an Asian-inspired bowl with the steelhead and avocado, and the “Hello Portobello” with wild rice and kale.

Granted, your average Sweetgreen-goer  probably wasn’t loading up on bacon and Sriracha to begin with, minus a “heavy” pour of Sabzi dressing, or extra meat on the cobb (RIP). And the chain probably doesn’t have anything to worry about when it comes to alienating the millennial market. Still, the move signals a new ethos for the company, which has received significant financial boosts in recent years—most recently to the tune of $35 million—and investments from bigwigs in the culinary community, including Shake Shack empire-builder Danny Meyer.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.