Call it a marketing gimmick or a revolutionary eco-food movement, but Chipotle is well on its way to becoming the first fast food or casual restaurant to offer completely GMO-free fare. According to a new statement, the restaurant’s coming price hike is with good reason—to supply American consumers with good food free of GMOs.
“It has been nearly three years since our last company-wide price increase, and while we want to remain accessible to our customers, we are at a point where we need to pass along these rapidly rising food costs,” said CFO Jack Hartung to Food Business News.
The company expects to increase prices based on store locations and competition, estimating increases will be “on average somewhere in the mid-single digits.”
Genetically-modified ingredients aren’t completely off the menu yet, according to Steve Ells, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle.
“Our corn and flour tortillas are the only foods we currently serve that are made using ingredients that contain or could contain trace amounts of G.M.O.s,” Ells explained, “and now we are testing new non-G.M.O. recipes for these tortillas and we hope to be able to roll them out by the end of the year.”
The company believes their customers will be loyal despite the price increases because they value “sustainable” ingredients.
The company has spent millions to get their customers on board with the changes, including higher prices, launching inspirational and satirical films, and more. As I reported in February, not everyone is accepting of their methods, as the films have created misunderstandings as much as support. Farmed and Dangerous, for instance, could have people believing farmers are feeding their cows petroleum pellets resulting in exploding livestock.
Ells says the films are to get people “curious”. “We believe the more curious they become and the more they learn, the more likely they’ll come to Chipotle.” Note, he isn’t interested in informing, but in piquing curiosity.
This isn’t to say their anti-GMO campaign doesn’t have positive merits. American consumers should be able to go to a restaurant and find selections that are GMO-free. And it seems Chipotle will lead the way—all the way to the bank.
“What we think more about is making sure that we earn pricing power, and if we focus on that, if we focus on creating a wonderful restaurant experience and cooking and serving delicious food that we’ll have the permission to raise prices, and we know if we do a good job with that then picking the timing of it is less relevant — it is just not that important,” said Hartung. “And generally we’ve been patient in terms of raising prices.”