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Chipotle, Marketing, and the Future of Food

October 8, 2013

chipotle-mexicanAs American’s interest in where there food comes from continues to increase, some food producers are seeking to position themselves as the “good” food companies. Chipotle—the burrito chain—produced a short video, titled “The Scarecrow” which captures the zeitgeist of the food movement. Chipotle proudly promotes its “Food with Integrity” campaign, which celebrates the chain’s commitment to sustainable, locally sourced, and hormone- antibiotic- and GMO-free products. And it’s a message that appears to be resonating with consumers. While Chipotle spends less than half of what most fast-food companies spend on advertising, it has seen sharp increases in sales, with revenue growing 16 percent in the first half of 2013 compared to the previous year.

Chipotle’s most recent video follows on the success of a 2011 video, “Back to the Start” which “depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future.”

But Chipotle’s campaign has been criticized by other in the food industry, which accuse the company of misleading consumers about how food is produced and advocating a system of food production they claim would be unable to feed the world.

While Chipotle’s campaign might not change the face of American farming—at least in the short term—it does highlight the increasing consciousness many Americans have about their food. While McDonald’s struggles to change its image by introducing new products, Chipotle is changing the conversation about food. It’s too early to tell whose message will win, but the direction of the conversation is certainly a good one. The central question, I think, is whether or not other companies will follow Chipotle’s lead.

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