When Starbucks' version popular drink arrives, it will include real pumpkin and ditch caramel coloring, a controversial additive. Meanwhile, Panera will debut a version that replaced some artificial preservatives with some natural ones.
"It was actually a pretty simple tweak. It was pretty clean to begin with," Dan Kish, Panera's senior vice president of food, told CNBC.
The move comes as Panera continues removing artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives from its food, a pledge it aims to fulfill by next year. The chain also said it would add more bottled beverage options that are free of these artificial ingredients and is testing 'clean' versions of its vanilla, caramel and chocolate syrups, used in other coffee beverages.
Starbucks came under fire last year after FoodBabe.com, a well-known food blog, criticized it for having caramel coloring in the drink.
While the FDA allows caramel coloring in food, it has come under fire for a trace impurity, 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), that can form during the manufacturing of certain types of caramel coloring.
In 2007, the National Toxicology Program issued a report showing a two-year study in rats was inconclusive regarding carcinogenicity of 4-MEI, but a two-year mouse study showed a higher incidence of certain lung tumors.
While Starbucks would not share the exact date of the drink's release, a spokeswoman said, "it is coming soon."