Chipotle CEO says plant-based meat trend has no long-term potential

Photo: David Tran (iStock)

Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol sat down with Barron’s to talk about burritos, the difference between his job at Chipotle and his old gig at Taco Bell and, most importantly, his views on plant-based meat. In brief, Chipotle will not be adding Impossible Tacos or Beyond Burritos to its menu anytime soon.

“I do think the plant-based food trend is a real trend,” he said. “I’m not sure plant-based foods that look and taste like meat are a long-term trend. It’s food chemistry to get that texture and that experience. Our plant-based solution is organic tofu. It’s great.”

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He added that plant-based meats are so highly processed, they don’t really fit with Chipotle’s mission to use fresh ingredients. (And yes, that includes avocados.)

It seems like a bold stance to take, especially now when other fast food chains (McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC), not to mention Big Food (Nestlé, Kellogg) are investing so heavily in plant-based meat. Will plant-based meat be something we’ll be laughing about in a couple of years as soooo 2019?

(As for Taco Bell, Niccol was, unsurprisingly, diplomatic. “At my prior job,” he said, “you needed much more promotion and entertainment to grab people’s attention.” Who can argue with that? He also advised waiting approximately five minutes after receiving a burrito, because then it will be at its peak flavor.)

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Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.