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Fortune Frog
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Chipotle Eliminates Use of GMO Ingredients

April 29, 2015 | About:

Fast casual restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) wants to offer its customers higher quality food, and has boycotted the use of genetically modified ingredients on its menu. This makes Chipotle the first major food chain to do so in the middle of mounting consumer concern regarding agricultural technology. The Co-CEO of Chipotle, Steve Ells, said that the step to eliminate GMO ingredients was a part of the company’s plan to alter customers’ perception about fast food. From Monday onwards, more than 1,800 Chipotle restaurants have started preparing food free of GMOs.

An “industry breakthrough” move
In 2013, Chipotle became the first major fast food chain to specify items that contained GMO ingredients. This has made the fast casual chain a trendsetter as growing number of restaurants followed suit, and started labelling their food items. Activists have also started pressuring restaurants and stores to label food items regarding whether or not they contain GMO. Steve Ells said "Just because food is served fast, doesn't mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors."

GMOs are popular in American agriculture and some ingredients that Chipotle needs to prepare its menu are genetically engineered. As per the Department of Agriculture, in 2014 94% of soybean and 93% of corn were raised genetically. Chipotle has been using soybean oil and corn quite heavily. Quite obviously, the chain’s decision of foregoing GMO ingredients has been applauded and recognized as an “industry breakthrough” step.

Other supermarket chains are also becoming part of this move. Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) plans to begin labelling products with GMO by 2018. Similarly, Walmart (NYSE:WMT) is also looking to attract and appeal to health conscious crowd by offering organic food items free of GMO ingredients. However, it’s a tough decision to implement for several fast food chains as demand for non-GMO ingredients can turn out to be very costly.

It should be, however, noted that Chipotle’s announcement does not imply that all its offerings would be free of GMO ingredients. The company said that a few of its soft drinks would continue to contain sweeteners. Besides, the company acknowledges that a part of its dairy supplies come from animals that consume GMO grains.

Chipotle has been lucky that it uses just 68 ingredients for its entire menu. It’s, therefore, not as much of a herculean task as for one of its competitors that needs 81 ingredients for preparing a burrito. Chipotle’s offerings can be prepared using 46 ingredients, which are available at any local supermarket, the only exception being its tortillas that contains additives. Chipotle is trying to reformulate this to make it GMO-free. Steve Ells, says: “The vast majority of our ingredients don’t come in a G.M.O. variety, and we use lots of whole, unprocessed foods, so it was easier for us to do.”

Last word
Chipotle has enjoyed strong sales and rapid growth recently. Things are looking up for the company and its decision of getting rid of GMO ingredients should bear fruits. It has proved to be a better alternative to traditional fast-food chains. As of now, prospects look bright for Chipotle. The company expects positive customer traffic in the near future.


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