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At Red-Hot Chipotle, Sustainable Ingredients Are the Marketing

At Red-Hot Chipotle, Sustainable Ingredients Are the Marketing
Photograph by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

To understand the creativity of Chipotle Mexican Grill’s marketing, consider the utter lack of it on the menu. Other than testing shredded tofu in some key markets, the offerings are a typical mix of burritos, tacos, and guacamole. There are no scrambled eggs or Doritos-flavored tacos, no tortilla soup or Mexican pizza. As chief marketing officer Mark Crumpacker notes: “We don’t really add anything new to the menu.”

In fact, Chipotle’s main draw arguably isn’t so much what it sells as how it buys: The emphasis is on organic, locally-produced ingredients and meat from “naturally raised” animals. In March, the company became the first U.S. chain to label and push to eliminate its genetically engineered ingredients. That’s why Chipotle has created marketing messages that most fast-food brands would view with horror. Last month, it launched an animated short about factory farming called The Scarecrow, which has spawned much debate and more than 7.1 million views on YouTube. (Think The Meatrix, only with a fast-food sponsor). On Monday, meanwhile, the restaurant launched a “Food for Thought” section on Huffington Post.