Chipotle Mexican Grill announced this week that it has launched the Chipotle Virtual Farmers' Market, powered by Shopify, that will allow farmers in the Chipotle supply chain to create improved versions of their own e-commerce websites. Through individualized online marketplaces, Chipotle suppliers will be able to sell meat, dairy and grain products and other items directly to consumers across the country.
As a digital innovator seeking long-term solutions, Chipotle said it is assisting in 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.
According to Chipotle, the agriculture industry has been weathering a crisis for years that has been magnified and accelerated recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers around the country have had to destroy millions of pounds of fresh goods due to decreased demand from closed restaurants, hotels and schools. The Chipotle Virtual Farmers' Market aims to give Chipotle's suppliers a new stream of revenue and enhance their commitment to sustainable farming practices amid unforeseen circumstances.
"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," Chipotle chief marketing officer Chris Brandt said. "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 kick off the program, four different Chipotle suppliers will sell through their own digital storefronts as part of the Chipotle Virtual Farmers' Market: Niman Ranch, Petaluma Creamery, McKaskle Family Farm and Meister Cheese. Each supplier is essential to Chipotle's existing restaurant supply chain and has been working with the brand for more than a decade, the announcement said.
Customers from around the country can find links to each supplier's virtual storefront by visiting farmersmarket.chipotle.com.
Over the past month, Chipotle and Shopify have worked together to lead virtual onboarding sessions with the partner farmers to help them get acquainted with 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," Kirsten Eckerman, Wisconsin farmer for Niman Ranch, said.
As noted in its latest Sustainability Report Update, Chipotle is aiding the next generation of farmers by offering education, scholarships, grants and three-year contracts to young farmers. Chipotle and the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation have contributed more than $500,000 to date to support the next generation of farmers through the National Young Farmers Coalition. Most recently, 50 diverse young farmers were awarded $5,000 grants to begin or grow their business, 78% of whom represent minorities in the industry. Additionally, Chipotle and the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation are helping growth-stage ventures across the country advance innovative solutions in farming through the Chipotle Aluminaries Project 2.0 accelerator program.