Chipotle Tests Cauliflower Rice to Lure Health-Conscious Diners

That rice in your burrito may not actually be rice.

With consumers increasingly embracing plant-based substitutes to popular foods, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. plans to test cauliflower rice as an alternative to its traditional grains. The new option will be sold in 55 restaurants in Denver and across Wisconsin starting this week.

The move underscores the fast-food industry’s efforts to appeal to health-conscious customers, even amid a pandemic that has complicated dine-in operations, disrupted supply chains and permanently closed many shops. Restaurants like Burger King and Starbucks Corp. offer faux-meat options in their sandwiches, and sales of plant-based foods have jumped since March.

While Chipotle’s CEO has previously criticized meat substitutes as overly processed, the company is exploring new menu options and aims to debut one or two products yearly. It has recently rolled out items like carne asada and queso nationally.

Covid-19 hasn’t slowed the pace of trials, but the company has had to rethink its product-development process, Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt said in an interview. Rather than sit around a table to discuss their opinions, taste-testers are now eating in their cars and sharing thoughts via conference call, he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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