Chipotle's Caitlin Leibert on Company's New Accelerator Program

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August 24, 2018
Updated 26d ago

By Carlo Versano

Chipotle Mexican Grill is launching an incubator for food start-ups that are developing technology to solve major issues of sustainability in farming, agriculture, and waste.

The Chipotle Aluminaries Project will select eight ventures for a seven-month accelerator program under the direction of the company's non-profit arm, director of sustainability Caitlin Leibert said Friday in an interview on Cheddar.

Non-profits and for-profits are both welcome to apply come September, and the selection committee will choose organizations that excel in alternative farming, new agricultural tech, waste solutions, and plant-based proteins.

Impact and scale are key, Leibert said.

"We're not looking for micro," she said. "We're looking for macro."

The program will include a week-long boot camp, where industry leaders will mentor participants who "leave that week with a plan to scale," Leibert added.

The Aluminaries Project, which begins accepting applications Sept. 12, is part of Chipotle's new plan to bring the chain back from a string of health issues and marketing flops, going back to the 2015 E.coli outbreak that devastated the company.

CEO Brian Niccol, who was poached from Taco Bell and took over the company in March has attempted to breathe fresh air into Chipotle's famously restrained menu. He successfully tweaked the recipe of the heavily marketed Queso dip after customers called it 'expired Velveeta', launched a buzzy guacamole promotion, and is now experimenting with adding bacon and nachos to some markets.

While the stock is up a staggering 80 percent this year, Chipotle is not out of the woods yet. Earlier this month it was dinged by reports that hundreds of customers were sickened after eating at one of the chain's Ohio locations.

Chipotle said last week that it will retrain its entire staff at all 2,500 locations on food-handling rules.

For full interview click here.