Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) plans to purchase more than 20 million pounds of locally grown produce in its restaurants this year, up from its 2013 goal of 15 million pounds. As the only national restaurant company with a significant commitment to serving local produce on a large scale, Chipotle has steadily increased its locally sourced produce supply since beginning the program in 2008.
“We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “That means pushing ourselves to find the best quality ingredients – ingredients that have traditionally been available only in high-end restaurants and specialty food markets – and making them available in a way that is accessible to really mainstream customers.”
Chipotle will work with more than 45 local farms around the country to provide bell peppers, cilantro, red onions, jalapeno peppers, oregano, romaine lettuce and tomatoes for its restaurants when seasonally available. In select cities, the company will also source avocados and lemons from local growers. Chipotle’s use of locally grown produce is rooted in its belief that produce from local growers arrives at its restaurants closer to harvest, resulting in fresher, more delicious food. Supporting local farms also creates and sustains opportunities for small- and mid-sized farms in rural communities around the country.
Chipotle has pioneered the use of locally grown produce among national restaurant companies, and consumers are taking notice. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast, today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from. Additionally, a 2014 National Grocery Association panel revealed that 87% of consumers regard the availability of locally grown produce and other local packaged foods as very/somewhat important, up from 76% in 2009. All of Chipotle’s locally grown produce comes from within 350 miles of the restaurants where it will be served.
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