In early 2015 Chipotle, the “health” inspired burrito based fast food chain, decided to go one step further than any other “healthy” alternative restaurant before them: Chipotle decided to remove GMO products from their menu. And while the move is applauded by many, it is not only for the environmental or health impacts, but for the excellent marketing and business maneuver by Chipotle. By casting itself as a healthful alternative (or perhaps the least terrible for you alternative), Chipotle has begun to capitalize on the “health halo” effect: the often inaccurate perception of health in a product. This “health halo” is now expanded with the removal of GMO products from their menu. The health conscience eater is now joined by the environmentally concerned in a giant burrito-eating frenzy to trump the ages.
The unique branding of Chipotle as the health conscience and environmental impact conscience company has interesting implications for food production and health in the United States. It shows the shift in cultural values in sections of a populace who can afford the inflated prices of “organic” and “non-GMO”. How much this is an actually ideological shift on Chipotle’s part or just a brilliant move to capitalize on a group of middle to upper class educated and conscientious Americans is not yet known.
Check out a discussion on this issue via NPR here.