How Authentic is Your Burrito?

chipolte burrito add

John Furgurson has a insightful post on the Brand Insight Blog on being an authentic brand.  I like how John works to clarify why authenticity is so important and such a challenge.  John comments,

I think the general public believes that marketing — by definition— is not authentic. Guilty until proven innocent!  And if someone sniffs even a hint of corporate BS they’ll blog about it, post negative reviews and announce it to all 7,694 Facebook Friends.

John continues,

Being authentic means staying focused and saying no once in a while. The more you diversify, extend your product line or tackle new target audiences, the better chance you have of alienating people.  In a down economy it’s always tempting for small businesses to branch out. You take on projects that are beyond your core competencies, because you can. People trust you. Then if things go south you lose some credibility. And without credibility there can be little authenticity.

One of my favorite examples of authenticity comes from the burrito chain Chipolte.  Right from the start of the company, Chipotle’s focus was on creating the best, freshest product possible.  They even went as far as to design their restaurants so that all the fresh food was easily visible to the customer and made the kitchen in plain site so there was no mystery behind how the meat was cooked.

As the company continued to grow, so did the commitment to building as fresh a burrito as possible. Here is a summary time line of the company’s efforts:

October 2000
Chipotle begins serving naturally raised pork.
June 2002
Chipotle opens first green building at Brodie Lane & 290 W in Austin, Texas.
October 2002
Chipotle begins serving naturally raised chicken at a few locations.
August 2003
Chipotle opens in New York, and all meats served there are naturally raised.
January 2004
Chipotle begins serving about 10% organically grown black and pinto beans.
March 2004
Chipotle opens second green building at 8th & Congress in Austin, Texas.
October 2004
Chipotle converts to frying oil with 0 trans fatty acids long before it became an industry standard.
January 2005
Chipotle increases its percentage of organically grown black and pinto beans to about 15%.
Chipotle implements plastic and glass recycling in 70 restaurants.
January 2006
Chipotle serves 20% organically grown black and pinto beans.
August 2006
California Avocado Commission endorses the avocado sustainability program developed by Chipotle.
January 2007
Chipotle increases its percentage of organically grown black and pinto beans to about 25%.
January 2007
Smithfield, the country’s largest pork producer, announces the gradual elimination of sow stalls, credits Chipotle as inspiration.
July 2007
Chipotle begins serving sour cream free of the synthetic growth hormone rBGH.
June 2008
Chipotle begins to purchase some of its produce from local farms.

Food With Integrity is what Chipotle’s calls it.

I call it a consistent commitment to being authentic.

3 thoughts on “How Authentic is Your Burrito?

  1. Great post. I come from the building products industry, where the biggest topic is green building. It is unbelievable how most companies are inauthentic about green building. Their first reaction is “let's claim what we're already doing is green” vs. “let's do something that would really improve our environmental impact.”

    It is HARD to tell the authentic from the imposters in most regards. I didn't know that Chipolte was authentic until I read your post, so their marketing didn't work for me. I think you hit on the essence when you say that long term actions are what matters.

    If you want to show you're authentic about green building, you need to have a list of what you are planning to do in the future to improve your impact on the environment.

  2. Jeremy,

    Excellent point. It is much easier to make a commitment in the short term. Keeping that commitment over the long term is the challenge.

    It can take a long time to build trust and create awareness of your efforts. This is another reason why I think Chipotle’s is such a good example since while they have had a focus on fresh food, they have not tried to oversell their position.

    Thanks again for the feedback,


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