Is A Non-GMO Menu Possible For Your Restaurant?

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, have been a major topic of discussion for the past few years. As consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about what they are eating, they are demanding action from grocery stores, restaurants, and food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate the use of GMOs in foods. The FDA reports that upwards of 80% of the food consumed in the United States contains some type of GMO ingredients. For example, 93% of the all of the corn and soybeans produced in the United States are genetically modified. While the FDA continues to claim that GMOs are not harmful, activist groups and consumers are continuing to push for GMOs to be limited or removed from food products. Currently, 64 other countries already have bans or labeling laws in place.

Chipotle, a Champion for Non-GMOs

In mid-April, the Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle announced that it would become the first national restaurant chain to completely remove any GMO ingredients from their offerings. Chipotle has been a leader in the non-GMO push for the last 2 years. In 2013, they were the first restaurant chain to disclose which ingredients contained GMOs, and pledged to remove all GMO ingredients from their menu. One of their major concerns was the soybean oil used to cook its chips and taco shells. They found a suitable replacement that offered the same properties as soybean oil, yet remained GMO free, in sunflower oil.

Supply Chain Stress

The increase in conscious eating is driving the demand for GMO-free food products. Sales of non-GMO products topped out at $11 billion dollars in 2014, and is only expected to grow as more food-related businesses find that to remain competitive and keep customers, that ingredients will need to change. What remains to be seen is how food suppliers are going to be able to keep up with the demand for this type of food to be grown and produced.

Pigs Prove a Point

Restaurateurs may recall the “Great Carnitas Crisis of 2015”, when Chipotle removed the beloved pork from their menus. The situation began when a vendor who provided pork to the company wasn’t living up to its animal welfare standards. Chipotle only buys pork from farmers who raise their pigs “naturally”, which means they are fed a vegetarian diet, never given antibiotics, and are raised in a way that allows the pigs to live a “happier and healthier life.” Pig farmers claim that raising a Chipotle-caliber pig can cost up to double, and take 4 times as long.

Is a Non-GMO Menu Possible for You?

With top industry leaders like Chipotle and Whole Foods Market making the push to be GMO-free, when is the right time for an individual restaurant to make efforts to clean their menu up of GMOs? The question isn’t as easily answered, and that can be directly attributed to the supply chain and vendors that each restaurant utilizes. Calculate the costs associated with replacing everything you cook with or serve that has any of the following ingredients: corn, soybean, potato, and canola oil. And don’t forget that corn is also a major ingredient in most sodas, in the form of corn syrup as a sweetener.

A great way to find out if a GMO-free move would benefit your restaurant is to talk with customers about what they would like to see on their plate. As more restaurants and grocers feel the pressure from millennials to expand their GMO-free offerings, the supply of these goods is surely going to be stretched thin, at least until crop production in the US moves away from GMO-based crops.

Thinking of making a change to your menu to include GMO-free ingredients? Leave a comment below with your plans on making the switch!