Chipotle Mexican Grill began celebrating the 18th anniversary of its focus on using high-quality ingredients by wrapping its burritos in gold. Beginning today, and continuing for four months, Chipotle will switch from its iconic silver foil to gold foil for its burritos. The company estimates that it will wrap as many as 35 million burritos in gold foil during that period.
"Traditionally an 18th anniversary is celebrated with porcelain, but that clearly wouldn't have worked," says Mark Crumpacker, the company's chief marketing officer. "So we opted for gold. It's a lot easier to wrap around the burritos and, let's face it, it's pretty stylish in a ’70s sort of way."
Beyond the obvious style implications, the gold foil is meant to draw attention to what Chipotle calls Food With Integrity. Chipotle's Food With Integrity mission means that it never stops looking for the very best ingredients—ones that are raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers. This includes sourcing naturally raised meats, local and organically grown produce, and dairy products that are made with milk from cows that are not treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone).
"It's been nearly 18 years since I opened the first Chipotle," says Chipotle founder, chairman, and co-CEO Steve Ells. "Since the very first day, I have always looked for the best ingredients I could find. But as it turns out, even our most loyal customers don't always know about the lengths we go to in order to source the best ingredients. So we decided to do something that would really grab their attention."
In addition to the gold foil, the company is launching an ad campaign that includes outdoor, radio, and online elements. Chipotle is also introducing a newspaper entitled The Gold Burrito Digest that will be in its restaurants throughout the campaign, and a new menu panel featuring a text short code (text GOLD to 888222) that allows customers to learn more about Food With Integrity using their mobile phones.
In April, the company will launch an online contest called "Wrap What You Love" where gold lovers will submit photos of objects they love wrapped in gold foil. Chipotle will offer prizes for the most creative submissions, including several 24-karat solid gold Chipotle burrito coins and $10,000 in cash. The online campaign will also raise money for the non-profit FamilyFarmed.org in support of its programs to help family farmers bring more local food to market.
"Limited-time promotions are the backbone of most fast food marketing campaigns," Crumpacker says. "But we aren’t likely to create any earthquake-tacos, plastic toys, or collectible cups at Chipotle. So we decided to do a limited time promotion that highlights the unlimited time nature of our great ingredients.”
While the promotion will only last for four months, the Food With Integrity mission will go on. "Food With Integrity is not something that ever ends," Ells says. "It's a journey and it's never over. We will always strive to find better and better ingredients for the food we serve."
Chipotle’s commitment to Food With Integrity has led the company to serve more naturally raised meat and local produce than any other restaurant company in the country—about 100 million pounds in all for 2011. In addition, 100 percent of Chipotle’s dairy is made with milk from cows that are not treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH and an increasing percentage of its dairy now comes from cows that are raised outdoors on pastures. Chipotle also plans to source more than 10 million pounds of produce from local farms during 2011.
What’s next for Chipotle marketing? "Maybe we'll switch from gold to platinum which, interestingly, looks a lot like the aluminum foil we have always used," Crumpacker says.