"Guac" lovers may be out of luck when visiting Chipotle restaurants, as the company's recent annual report notes that the avocado may be a victim of climate change, and dramatic price increases could strike it from the menu.
However, Chipotle and Mexican restaurants may not be the only businesses impacted by a decrease in supply of the fruit. According to The Wall Street Journal, avocado sales have increased over the past several years as perceptions about the exotic food have changed. As consumers changed their belief that all fats are created equal, the avocado came to be known as a "superfood," loaded with heart-healthy fats.
While once used primarily in a dip for tortilla chips, avocados are showing up on hamburgers and in wraps and are even eaten as a main dish. According to NPR, while the Hass avocado crop in 2013 produced smaller fruits, the overall yield was up. PBS speculated that Chipotle's annual report may have been discussing a proactive measure that is part of a larger plan to address how climate change could impact its business, which the company later confirmed.
Response to the announcement that avocados may be in jeopardy was so great that company spokesman Chris Arnold told media outlets a day later that there was no looming "guacapocalypse," according to NPR.
It's Wise to Prepare For Sudden Supply changes
The news of an avocado shortage and how quickly it ballooned into a sky-is-falling situation highlight two important points for supply chain managers. First, while the measure was proactive and set off some consumer alarms, it is wise for the company to consider how such a loss could change its menu. Brand damage would likely be much worse if the restaurant chain had no plan in place to deal with rising prices of one of its ingredients.
However, the situation also illustrates how quickly consumers respond to information regarding the supply chain. Organizations, especially those in the food supply chain, must give a lot of consideration to any statement they make about a possible change in products. Supply chain management and customer service are becoming more intertwined as public interest in the deeper operations of organizations continue.
To respond to inquiries quickly, companies should harness automated data collection to improve inventory control and access to real-time information. Supply chain management systems that can help organizations respond at the fast pace required in the digital age are part of a proactive plan to deal with interruptions and recalls.