Fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has introduced the Chipotle Virtual Farmers Market, powered by Shopify, which will enable farmers in the Chipotle supply chain to launch improved versions of their own e-commerce websites.
Via individualized online marketplaces, Chipotle suppliers will be able to sell meat, dairy and grain products, and other items directly to consumers across the country. Chipotle is helping with the development of each supplier’s site, covering hosting fees on Shopify for two years and supporting the design and development of the direct-to-consumer storefronts.
The Chipotle Virtual Farmers Market aims to give the restaurant chain’s suppliers a new stream of revenue and bolster their commitment to sustainable farming practices amid the unforeseen circumstances of the pandemic.
“It can be intimidating for many family farms to change the way they do business, so we’re giving our suppliers the right tools and resources to successfully launch improved e-commerce platforms,” explained Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer. “Our Food with Integrity values start with our farmers and helping them adapt to new technologies and ways of reaching the consumer is crucial for both the future of the farming industry and Chipotle.”
To start off the program, four longtime Chipotle suppliers will sell through their own individual digital storefronts as part of the Chipotle Virtual Farmers Market: Niman Ranch, Petaluma Creamery, McKaskle Family Farm and Meister Cheese. Each product from these suppliers used in Chipotle restaurants is called out next to each farm on the Virtual Farmers Market homepage, so consumers can easily order key ingredients in their favorite menu items. In tandem with the launch, throughout the week, Chipotle Director of Culinary and Menu Development Chef Chad Brauze will share Chipotle Virtual Farmers Market-inspired recipes on the company’s TikTok channel.
Customers across the United States can find links to each supplier’s virtual storefront at the virtual farmers market, and the four storefronts can also be accessed directly.
Over the past month, Chipotle and Shopify have held virtual onboarding sessions with their partner farmers to help them understand Shopify’s e-commerce platform.
“This new Virtual Farmers Market gives an opportunity for my farm, and hundreds of other small, sustainable farmers like me in the Niman Ranch network raising livestock humanely and without antibiotics, to remain sustainable and resilient through hard times,” noted Kirsten Eckerman, a Wisconsin farmer for Northglenn, Colo.-based Niman Ranch.
Newport Beach, California-based Chipotle operates more than 2,600 restaurants in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and is the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all of its restaurants. The company has more than 85,000 employees.
Other food brands to launch direct-to-consumer websites recently include Impossible Foods, Ocean Spray and PepsiCo.