Chipotle just announced they removed all the ingredients from their menu items that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In a two-year process prompted by consumers’ growing concerns about the safety of long-term consumption of GMOs, Chipotle’s leadership feels this is about transparency and trust as much as health.
Two years ago, the fast-casual chain revealed that GMOs permeated their menu, advising diners wishing to avoid them to order the pork carnitas, sour cream, and guacamole. They did so without concern for losing business but instead with a concern for transparency. In 2013, Chris Arnold, Chipotle Spokesman explained in an article on Bloomberg business that revealing the presence of GMOs in their foods “engenders more trust when you’re forthcoming about the food you serve. Any downside there may be…is going to be eclipsed by the upsides with being transparent.”
There are several reasons I like this move by Chipotle. Here are a few of them.
Chipotle is embracing a consumer-led concern. Rising awareness of minding what we eat drove Chipotle’s rid their menu (as much as possible) of GMOs. This shows that Chipotle hears the concerns their Customers voice and responds to them by completely changing how they do business with their suppliers.
Transparency is critical to creating trust for people. When a business is honest about how they do what they do, the most basic definition of transparency for business, they give Customers the information they need to make a judgment about the brand. In this case, Chipotle was transparent about the use of GMOs two years ago, and now about how they got rid of them to the best of their ability. They consider it part of their “food integrity journey.” When you trust a brand, you form an emotional attachment to it, and, as a result, develop loyalty.
They put the emphasis on the Customer, not on the Process. The truth is, it is no simple affair for a large chain of restaurants to eradicate GMOs from their menu—they are ubiquitous in processed foods, particularly corn and flour tortillas. However, because it is important to their Customers, they did it anyway. Chipotle worked with suppliers directly to get them to plant non-GMO corn varieties. They also replace soybean oil with sunflower oil.
They realize they always need to improve their experience. We always tell our clients that building a great Customer Experience is a process, not an event. There is always a need to re-examine and redesign your experience, as your experience quickly becomes business as usual. Furthermore, you are often compared to the best experience out there—even if it isn’t in the same industry. To frame this concept using Chipotle’s process, they want to eliminate the presence of GMOs further by getting it out of the meat supply in the form of the feed the animals eat. They have already also identified eliminating preservatives and hydrogenated oils as a future goal.
When it comes to a Customer Experience that promotes trust, there is no question that transparency is a great tool. But taking on the difficult work of implementing change is another important tool. Putting the Customer-led innovations first is not always easy, and that was true for Chipotle’s work in eliminating the GMOs. It’s nice to see that a fast casual chain like Chipotle embraces these concepts in such a public way. I for one am anxious to see how this plays out for them in both stock price and the court of public opinion.
Are you more likely to eat at Chipotle based on this announcement? Why or why not? I’d be interested to hear discussion in the comments below.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
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