PETA says the announcement follows talks between itself and the major dining chain.
The announcement makes Panera the third brand under the JAB Holding Company to end the surcharge on nondairy milk. The first two were Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Pret A Manger.
Another recent move announced by Panera is set to make the chain more accessible to those following plant-based diets: according to reports, the restaurant intends to introduce plant-based products to every menu category by 2021
"Panera Bread is helping its customers hit back against an industry that treats sensitive cows as nothing more than milk machines and spews out contaminants that are heating up our planet," PETA Executive Vice President, Tracy Reiman, said.
"PETA is calling on Starbucks, which is still penalizing people for opting for eco- and animal-friendly vegan milk, to follow Panera’s progressive lead."
The charity adds: "Each person who goes vegan saves the lives of nearly 200 cows and other animals every year - and they significantly reduce their own carbon footprint, as the dairy and meat industries are major producers of the greenhouse gases that contribute to catastrophic climate change."
Starbucks and others
PETA has now focused its attention at other chains - primarily Starbucks - to end their surcharge on vegan milk. In the US, it currently charges up to 80 cents more for lattes made with soy, coconut, or almond milk rather than dairy.
Starbucks recently released a sustainability commitment and environmental assessment which revealed that dairy products are the chain’s 'biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions'.
According to the chain, dairy products are responsible for over a fifth of its greenhouse gas emissions and over a seventh of its water use.
As part of its pledge to become more environmentally-friendly, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said he would encourage consumers to opt for vegan milk.
Johnson said plant-based milk will be 'a big part of the solution' when it comes to reducing its footprint for greenhouse gases, water, and waste.
Now according to reports, Johnson will 'push consumers to choose milk made from almond, coconuts, soy or oats, whose production is environmentally friendlier than dairy'.
"Alternative milks will be a big part of the solution. The consumer-demand curve is already shifting," he said.
'Drop the surcharge immediately'
In response to Johnson's comments, PETA published a blog saying: "If the coffee chain is really serious about reducing its carbon footprint, it should walk the walk and drop the vegan surcharge immediately.
"While we're all for urging customers to ditch dairy, we have a news flash for the coffee chain: The ball is in its court.
"Vegans, environmentalists, people with lactose intolerance, and other customers have been urging Starbucks to eliminate its dairy-free milk surcharge since the chain began offering vegan milk years ago."