Chipotle Mexican Grill is kicking off 2022 with a new menu item: meatless chorizo.
Plant-based chorizo is the company’s first new meatless protein option since it added tofu-based sofritas in 2014.
Starting Monday, customers nationwide can add the option for a limited time. The plant-based chorizo is made with pea protein, chipotle peppers, tomato paste, garlic, Spanish smoked paprika and olive oil.
The option is certified vegan and contains 16 grams of protein per serving. Chipotle tested plant-based chorizo in Denver and Indianapolis in August.
Under CEO Brian Niccol, who previously led Yum Brands’ Taco Bell, the company has accelerated adding new menu items through a process called “stage-gate testing.” The chain has been strategic with new releases, making many of them limited-time options to drive customer traffic to its restaurants and to keep the menu from becoming bloated.
The burrito chain hasn’t had the best luck with chorizo so far. It began offering the food item in 2016 but pulled it in favor of queso, saying at the time that chorizo only accounted for 3% of protein sales. It relaunched the meat as a limited-time offer in late 2018.
But Chipotle said the plant-based chorizo earned strong reviews from customers during its testing. It is being promoted as an addition to the Whole30 meal option, vegan and vegetarian bowls, which target consumers who adhere to certain diets. The lifestyle bowls are only available to order through the company app and website.
Shares of Chipotle climbed 26% in 2021, raising its market value to $49.4 billion. Strong digital sales growth and a handful of limited-time menu items lifted the stock, despite the broader restaurant industry’s setbacks due to the pandemic.