- Chipotle just announced its vegan chorizo would expand to menus across the US.
- The chain developed its own plant-based meat, instead of working with an outside company.
- Two experts told Insider that it’s a smart move for Chipotle.
Chipotle rolled out its plant-based chorizo to menus nationwide on Monday, and analysts are praising the chain.
The fast-casual chain first debuted the meat-free chorizo in around 100 stores in Denver, Indianapolis, and Orange County, California last summer. The chorizo is made from pea protein, ancho chile, Chipotle peppers, tomato paste, garlic, and smoked paprika, Chipotle said. It was in development for about a year before the limited rollout.
Plant-based meat alternatives have been on fast food and fast-casual menus for a while now, but Chipotle is doing things a bit differently. Burger King has seen huge success with its Impossible Whopper and added Impossible Nuggets, and White Castle has Impossible Sliders, Del Taco has Beyond Tacos, Dunkin’ has Beyond sausage sandwiches, and Starbucks sells Impossible breakfast sandwiches.
These menu items were each developed with one of the two biggest players in the alternative meat space: Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Chipotle developed its plant-based chorizo in-house, but it fits their usual pattern.
“Chipotle has always done things a little differently than the rest of the restaurant industry,” Kalinowski Equity Reports founder and CEO Mark Kalinowski told Insider. “They try to be higher quality,” than competitors, and “they’re not afraid to pay up for the higher quality stuff,” he said. In this case, Chipotle was willing to invest in developing its own plant-based meat.
The main meat substitutes on the market don’t necessarily line up with Chipotle’s food integrity standards, UBS analyst Dennis Geiger told Insider.
Chipotle Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt highlighted this difference in the chain’s statement announcing the rollout. “We used real ingredients to create a plant-based protein with a deep, rich Chorizo flavor that can be enjoyed by everyone,” he said.
Kalinowski says Chipotle executives are smart to want to stand out, portraying their product as different from the standard fast-food fare. Fast food and fast casual chains are becoming increasingly alike as brands adopt similar restaurant designs, digital sales, and drive-thrus, but a perception of higher quality could be a differentiator for Chipotle, where customers are already accustomed to paying a slightly higher price point.
“Being different has worked out extremely well for [Chipotle] for decades,” Kalinowski said.
Both experts are optimistic about the potential of Chipotle’s vegan chorizo. Kalinowski believes it will likely sell better than cauliflower rice, and Geiger said that the initial tests went well, a continuation of successful launches under CEO Brian Niccol.
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