Chipotle has a reputation for being one of the freshest and the hottest players in the fast-casual game. However, to stay on top, the company can't let anyone best their burritos when it comes to "food with integrity."
Chipotle has revealed that it is testing a new tortilla, with a super-simple ingredients list in Burlington, Wash., reports the New York Times. The tortilla is the result of the burrito chain's efforts with the Bread Lab at Washington State University to craft a tortilla that mixes old-school simplicity with new-school mass marketing.
Why all the fuss? Well, a Chipotle tortilla contains 11 ingredients, including additives like calcium propionate and sodium metabisulfite, according to the Times. When the chain went GMO-free in April, it announced its next mission was to significantly cut down the number of ingredients in the tortilla, with a special focus on eliminating preservatives and additives.
So far, this process has produced the tortilla tested in Burlington, made with just whole-wheat flour, water, oil and salt. Some of Chipotle's tortilla suppliers are already crafting small batches using the new starter base for the tortilla, a process that requires a consistent temperature to develop, time to ferment and new training for bakers.
Chipotle's biggest issue in crafting a new tortilla isn't that simple tortilla recipes don't exist. It's that, without preservatives, most traditional tortillas' shelf lives are too short to be used across a major chain. Similar to Chipotle's struggles finding a pork provider that both meets the company's stringent standards and can produce enough pork for all 1,800 locations, executing the company's lofty standards presents new challenges as the chain expands.
However, while Chipotle has led the way in helping all-natural food go mainstream, it's far from the only chain cutting artificial ingredients. In the last few months, chains including Subway, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell have all announced plans to cut artificial flavors and additives from the menu. The all-natural battle is heating up. It's up to Chipotle to churn out a simple yet fabulous new tortilla to stay ahead of the competition.