While major restaurant chains including McDonald’s, Subway, Panera and Taco Bell have recently begun to move away from unpronouncable, unfamiliar ingredients such as propionic acid and Yellow No. 5, Chipotle Mexican Grill has been ahead of the game, taking its suppliers to task for not meeting its rigorous animal-welfare standards, narrowing the number of ingredients it uses overall, and moving away from genetically modified foods.
Now, on Tuesday, July 21, Chipotle is launching “Friend or Faux” — an integrated marketing campaign and interactive digital experience, optimized for mobile and desktop use, that invites consumers to learn about the differences between Chipotle’s ingredients and those commonly used to make fast food.
“Friend or Faux” reinforces Chipotle’s commitment to serving real, high-quality ingredients raised with respect for farmers, the environment, animals and consumers, while taking a progressive approach to continue conversations about where food comes from and how it is prepared.
In a marketing-driven industry where new menu items are often used to drive customer traffic and proliferation of menu items is the norm, cheap, heavily processed foods that include thousands of additives and artificial ingredients have become common. Chipotle has instead focused on making food with high-quality ingredients prepared using classic cooking techniques. To paraphrase the company's messaging, Chipotle says it “Gives Zero Faux,” about bread made without azodicarbonamide — the infamous “yoga mat” chemical that blogger the Food Babe brought to light last year.
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“These stories represent a few nice steps being made on a road that Chipotle paved more than 20 years ago,” a rep said during the announcement, which was made on Wednesday.
Friend or Faux allows users to compare the ingredients found in Chipotle products with standard chain fare.
“We know that no fast food is perfect, including our own,” text on the website reads. “For example, tortillas — even ours — contain more faux ingredients than we’d like.”
According to the website, Chipotle tortillas are made of flour, water, whole-wheat flour, canola oil, salt, baking soda, wheat bran, fumaric acid, calcium propionate, sorbic acid, and sodium metbisulfite. But the chain says it is moving toward a simplified recipe of whole-wheat flour, water, oil and salt.
Through this campaign, Chipotle will showcase the limited number of ingredients it uses to make its food (68 ingredients, total), and contrast that with the long, complex ingredient lists on which many fast food brands have become so reliant.
“There’s been a lot of talk recently about fast food companies removing artificial ingredients from their food, but most of these announcements cover only a portion of the thousands of additives used in processed foods,” explained Mark Crumpacker, Chief Creative and Development Officer at Chipotle. “Through ‘Friend or Faux,’ we are giving consumers an entertaining way to contrast the collective beauty of Chipotle’s food with the complex ingredient lists that make up many fast food and packaged food items. By engaging people in a way that makes them more curious about what they are eating, we hope they will better understand the options that are available to them.”
Starting Tuesday, consumers can play “Friend or Faux” by choosing a Chipotle menu item and one of a number of fast food menu items, and then compare and match 20 ingredients, identifying which menu item contains each ingredient — the Chipotle item, the fast food item, or both. The items will include a variety of Chipotle’s burritos, bowls, tacos and salads, as well as burgers, burritos, tacos, sandwiches, salads, and pizzas available from a number of common fast food brands. A “study guide,” where users can learn about the ingredients, showcasing the range of fresh, whole options found in Chipotle’s menu compared to that of other fast food restaurants, will also be available.
As a reward, users who complete the ingredient comparison experience will receive a special buy-one-get-one mobile offer, as well as an entry into a national sweepstakes, which will award 50 grand prize winners with one year of “Free Burritos for You and a Friend” and 100 first prize winners with a “Catering Party for 20” (where available). Users who share the “Friend or Faux” website on their Facebook and Twitter pages will receive a bonus sweeps entry.
Last month, Chipotle one-upped the rest of the fast food industry once again by expanding benefits formerly reserved for salaried workers — including full tuition reimbursements, sick pay and paid vacations — to all employees as of July 1.