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Chipotle’s ‘Food Culture’ On Display in Pasadena

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) is serious about eating clean, and its marketing continues to drive that point home.

The Newport Beach-based restaurant operator appeared for the second year in a row in Pasadena’s Rose Parade with a float titled “Cultivate the Future of Farming” aimed at promoting farming with the promise of donating $1 each time someone posted #farming on social media on Jan. 1.

The company, through a spokeswoman, said Chipotle and the Chipotle Cultivation Foundation have donated $385,000 to the National Young Farmers Coalition across its Rose Parade campaign, Dec. 6 Farmer Friday program and general corporate giving.

Niccol Focus

Eating clean and sustainability have been stalwarts of a back-to-basics approach the company has taken since the arrival of former Taco Bell chief Brian Niccol to the company in 2018.

It’s a bit of an about-face from the marketing of his former firm. Taco Bell has continued to push the envelope when it comes to marketing efforts that have dipped the brand into fashion, hospitality and retail.

Niccol’s charge at Chipotle has homed in on founder Steve Ells’ general focus on sustainability when the company references the idea of changing perceptions around “food culture.”

Ells “made a great point, which is why is it only really expensive restaurants have real culinary and real cooking and real food? It should be more accessible and, to his credit, that’s what Chipotle is and that’s what I mean by changing the food culture,” Niccol, our Businessperson of the Year, said in an interview with the Business Journal last month.

“I think the fast-casual category’s going to continue to grow because that’s how people want to eat. People would prefer to eat real, whole foods prepared with classic culinary and the reason is because they feel good about the food they’re eating and because it tastes really great. I mean, it’s that simple.”

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