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  • KPB & Co Research

Summary

As restaurants seek to distance themselves from unhealthy food options, many are seeking ways of augmenting their menu with plant-based products. Chipotle is the latest among these restaurants to try out a healthier alternative, with their new Cauliflower Rice. This move follows that of several other fast-food chains such as McDonald's, and Burger King. McDonald's launched a test product called the P.L.T in 28 stores across Canada in 2019, which it has since ended without a national roll-out planned.  Burger King also rolled out their meatless Impossible Whopper in the US in August 2019, and at about the same time they also rolled out the Rebel Whopper in Europe. There has been a dose of controversy around the Rebel and Impossible Whoppers since their launch, owing to the fact that they are cooked on the same grill as other meat-based products.

Chipotle's New Plant-Based Option

Taking the advice of its customers, Chipotle will test its " Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice" in about 55 stores in Denver and Wisconsin beginning on July 15. The new menu item will cost an additional US$2.0 and will be available for purchase in-restaurant and in-digital form in select stores across the US. According to the chief marketing officer: 

To date, one out of three new menu item requests from Chipotle customers is for Cauliflower Rice... We've answered the call from fans and created a better-for-you option that puts a delicious twist on our classic white rice recipe by using the same fresh cilantro and lime ingredients and culinary techniques.       - Chris Brandt (CMO)
What are the Ingredients

Management highlighted the fact that the freshly prepared "Cauliflower Rice" will be grain-free, and compliant with Whole30, Keto, Paleo, Vegan and, Vegetarian diets, and has about four net carbs per serving. In recent times, there has been a growing segment of people such as YouTubers, Home Cooks, and Bloggers that have been touting the versatility of Cauliflower in various meals. Sites such as tasty have over 117 recipes that use Cauliflower as the main ingredient.  For Chipotle, it appears that the focus is only on the rice at the moment. The Cauliflower rice will comprise of the following:

  • Grilled cauliflower
  • Fresh-chopped cilantro
  • Lime juice
  • Salt

Whats Next

As in the case of McDonald's, and previous roll-outs of Chipotle products, this roll-out will be in select stores only just to test consumer's appetite for the product. If the up-take is considerable, then the company will consider a staged roll-out across its 2,600 restaurants in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and, Germany. Plant-based, despite being a growing trend, is still in the very early stage of development. Some companies such as Beyond Meat  and Impossible Foods have seen a huge growth in demand over the last decade, but are still small relative to the size of the traditional meat market. The tiny size of the market is partly the reason why large fast-food chains are reluctant to throw huge capital behind these menu items today. In the case of Chipotle, we have to wait and see the customer's response to determine whether this menu item will be a sustainable contribution to the profit margins going forward.


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