Chipotle Thinks It Can Build a Better Tortilla with Fewer Ingredients

By Mike Pomranz |

© Kristoffer Tripplaar / Alamy

America’s current food ethos appears to be “less is more,” as eaters shun food additives and GMOs. For food producers, though, that means they need to try to get more out of less.

Chipotle is taking that idea to heart. The burrito chain is working to create a better tortilla by paring down the 11 ingredients in their current tortilla (flour, water, whole-wheat flour, canola oil, salt, baking soda, wheat bran, fumaric acid, calcium propionate, sorbic acid and sodium metabisulfite) to a more Spartan four ingredients: whole-wheat flour, water, oil and salt.

Producing such a simple product that can meet the burrito chain’s massive capacity—the company currently uses 800,000 tortillas a day, and that number is rising—is more complicated than it might seem.  According to the New York Times, it all starts at the Bread Lab on the campus of Washington State University. There, scientists are building a better tortilla from the ground up, investigating about 100 different wheats and developing a leavening agent from just flour and water.

Despite these challenges, one of Chipotle’s suppliers is already churning out test runs of the new burrito wraps. And these new tortillas—which the Times describes as “golden brown with a slightly nutty taste and a bit of elasticity”—could be in some Chipotle locations relatively soon. “We’ll be increasing the batch size, and the next step is to put it into production to supply a small group of restaurants,” said Chipotle founder Steve Ells. “As we prove that’s successful, we’ll expand until we’re supplying the whole region with tortillas, and then move on to the next region.”

OK, sure, but are the carnitas back yet?! 

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