Remember, when calorie counts on menus were all the rage, then became a requirement for large chains?
Now, progressive chains are starting to adopt sustainability and carbon footprint impact labels on menus to show consumers how their food choices are helping the environment. The latest is Chipotle Mexican Grill.
On Monday, the Newport Beach, Calif.-based chain launched Real Foodprint, a sustainability impact tracker on its app. When consumers order food, the tracker will calculate how their meal is favorably impacting the environment based on the ingredients selected.
Real Foodprint tracks five categories: Less Carbon in the Atmosphere (measured in grams); Gallons of Water Saved; Improved Soil Health (measured in square feet); Organic Land Supported (measured in square feet); and Antibiotics Avoided (measured in milligrams).
The metrics provide the consumer a snapshot of the environmental savings based on an industry average calculated from U.S. Department of Agriculture, World Health Organization and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration data.
"Beyond asking people to make the right choice for the climate based on a carbon label, we are demonstrating the impact of our sourcing practices through data computed based on the ingredients in our guests' orders," Caitlin Leibert, head of sustainability, said in a statement.
Leibert called Real Foodprint a radically transparent way of holding the brand “accountable to improve our practices and source more sustainably over time.”
Chiptole has tapped science personality Bill Nye the Science Guy to explain how the tracker works in a TikTok video.
The company maintains that it is the first brand to provide customers with detailed information about how each ingredient used on a menu impacts the environment.
National chains and independent restaurants have been establishing sustainability practices for years. Some like Starbucks, Burger King and McDonald's Corp. have outlined specific sustainability goals that address everything from recycling to reducing methane emissions.
But now restaurants such as Bamboo Sushi, Chipotle and Panera Bread are starting to relay that savings through menu labeling.
Last week, Panera Bread said it has identified the carbon footprint impact of each of their menu items.
The company said 55% of its entrees fall in the climate-friendly category. The fast-casual pioneer plans to label low carbon footprint items with a “Cool Food Meals” designation. It will be displayed alongside calorie counts.
Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven