Chipotle says that it will cease serving ingredients that have been genetically engineered, the first big restaurant chain to do so. The chain began marking which items contained GMOs on their menu in 2013, part of a trend that has seen other restaurants and grocers do the same. But this takes things a step further, removing the items all together.
The New York Times wonders whether this will prompt other restaurants to do the same. But it will be difficult. It means removing all items in the supply chain that contain GMOs, items like baking soda, sugars and various oils. Already its attempts to find items that meet its standards have led to shortages, such as the lack of carnitas that no doubt sent some people into bout of depression. The process of finding alternatives promises to be a big job.
“Eliminating genetically engineered ingredients is easier for Chipotle, where the entire menu uses just 68 items,” says the Times. That’s far less than the competition.
Speaking of the competition, this will undoubtedly put pressure on them to further scrutinize their menus and the ingredients they use. McDonald’s, for instance, has already decided to scale back on what it offers and has made quality ingredients and transparency about sourcing part of its marketing. The company has released videos about how its food is made and earlier this year pledged to use stop using chicken with certain hormones in it.
And just last week, Kraft said it was removing dyes from its Mac & Cheese product. Steps are being taken, but up to now, they have been largely baby steps.
Still, this doesn’t mean that Chipotle is in the free and clear either. The entire food industry is under a microscope now that labeling credibility has become an issue for many consumers. Even if questions are being raised about some of the big-name advocates out there, there’s still a trend towards healthy eating that has to be addressed by all companies in this industry.
“[T]he new focus on quality represents a classic “soft sell,” which demands greater long-term investment from food brands,” writes PRN’s own Patrick Coffee in this Adweek article.
Chipotle’s announcement is big news. But the way it plays out on their menus and on the plates of diners will be bigger news.