Karro secures contract to supply Chipotle

Karro secures contract to supply Chipotle

UK-based meat processor Karro Food Group has struck a deal to supply pork to the domestic outlets of US fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle.

The foodservice operator has faced problems with its pork supply this year. In January, Chipotle suspended one of its pork suppliers after an audit found the business did not meet the company's requirements. However, the move meant a shortfall in Chipotle's pork supply, with the group, for example, having to stop selling its Mexican dish carnitas in a number of its outlets.

Speaking in April when Chipotle announced its first-quarter results, co-CEO Steve Ells said the "resulting outages" had affected a third of its restaurants and forecast the "shortage" of pork would affect the business in the spring and summer.

However, Ells added at the time: "We now believe that we have found a solution with a new supplier to help us fill our gap. Our team is conducting on-site visits to inspect all facets of the operation and we're encouraged by what we have seen so far. At this point we plan to begin introducing this new pork in some of our restaurants in the coming months. If all goes as planned we believe that we will be steadily increasing our supply throughout the third quarter and back in full supply during the fourth quarter."

Ells did not name the supplier and Chipotle had not returned a request for comment at the time of publication.

Nevertheless, Karro confirmed the processor was now a supplier to Chipotle. A spokesman told just-food it had been able to meet Chipotle's "required higher welfare standard". He said yesterday (14 July): "Karro is delighted to be working in partnership with such a high quality US business and like Karro, one that takes animal welfare so seriously. Karro will continue to work with Chipotle to continue to develop even higher animal welfare strategies."

The processor did not provide further details on the welfare standards it works towards on its farms.

Karro was formed after Vion's UK pork assets were sold in an MBO backed by private-equity group Endless. It has yet to release accounts for 2014 but saw EBITDA grow 10% in 2013, with a loss of GBP3.3m (US$5.1m). Karro's turnover that year stood at GBP533m.

The spokesman said it was targeting growth across a number of channels. "Two years ago, the newly created Karro Food Group embarked upon a multi-channel strategy across retail, food service and export markets which have materially improved the carcass balance enabling real value to be shared with all of its customers. The Chipotle contract is another example of strong delivery against this agenda," the spokesman said.