Chipotle today launched the Real Foodprint tool on its app to help customers better track the sustainability of the 53 ingredients it uses in meals. According to a press release from Chipotle, this also holds the quick-service brand “accountable” for its actions and choices around farming and sourcing ingredients.
The Real Foodprint tool compares the average values of Chipotle’s 53 ingredients against the restaurant industry average in five areas: “Less Carbon in the Atmosphere,” “Gallons of Water Saved,” “Improved Soil Health,” “Organic Land Supported,” and “Antibiotics Avoided.”
To get that data, Chipotle has partnered with research firm HowGood, which aggregates ingredient sustainability information from Chipotle’s suppliers. It then compares that information to data on industry-standard ingredients via information from the United States Department of Agriculture, the World Health Organization, and the United States Food & Drug Administration, among others. The score Chipotle users see for each ingredient is “the difference between average data for each ingredient based on Chipotle’s sourcing standards and conventional, industry average standards,” according to today’s press release.
Chipotle may be the first restaurant brand to partner with HowGood for this level of data, but it’s not the first to bake ingredient sustainability information into its menu. Panera recently introduced “cool food” badges to its menu that indicate which items have a low carbon footprint. Also in 2020, Just Salad introduced a carbon footprint score for each menu item.
But as I wrote at the time of Just Salad’s news, it’s unclear if labels like “0.41 kg CO2e” and “0.77 kg CO2e” will have any kind of impact on consumer purchasing habits, since not all consumers even understand that “C02e” is the standard unit for measuring carbon footprints. Chipotle’s approach, which explains each number in layman’s terms (e.g., “gallons of water saved”) might be more accessible for mainstream consumers at this point.
The fact that Chipotle has also opted for positive language is unique so far among restaurants tracking sustainability on their menus. And it could set a new standard. Research has found that positive reinforcement can be a much more effective motivator than negative feedback or shaming. So telling someone how much water they’re saving on an order could make the idea of eating sustainable much more attractive.
Since the Real Footprint tool just launched, it is far too soon to tell if Chipotle’s “positive change in impact,” as the brand calls it, will lead to more customers ordering lower carbon footprint orders. If it does, we will certainly see similar efforts from other major chains in the coming months.