Chipotle Is Suing Sweetgreen Over A Burrito Bowl

Even for "Mild" fans, the food news world is heating up as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. filed a federal lawsuit in California against Sweetgreen for a controversial new menu item. The item in question? Sweetgreen's "Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl." 

Last month, Sweetgreen launched something of a brand overhaul, reconstructing its menu (and, subsequently, its image) with a slew of new offerings that mark a departure toward heartier warm grain bowls. The fast-casual chain, which has been known for its salads, says that this menu expansion is a natural evolution for the company. Indeed, last summer, Sweetgreen launched a new chicken teriyaki bowl with squash and zucchini, a markedly more substantial offering than its usual leafy greens. In February, Chipotle also dropped a new menu item — the trendy fajita quesadilla inspired by TikTok foodies and their reimaginations of favorite signature Chipotle offerings.

But, the difference, says Chipotle, is that Sweetgreen's new burrito bowl wasn't the product of any "inspiration," but rather an attempted association with Chipotle's success as a brand, as well as a "trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and deceptive trade practice," via NPR. Sweetgreen announced the launch of its Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl in a press release on March 30 via Businesswire. According to the press release, the bowl was "Named for its thoughtfully-sourced chipotle powder." But, Chipotle argues that Sweetgreen is merely trying to ride on its coattails, and the burrito chain is having no part of it.

It's getting spicy out here

Not only is the word "Chipotle" in the item name, says Hitha Herzog, chief research officer and research analyst at H Squared Research, but Sweetgreen's new offering could be a deeper case of intellectual property theft. "If you think about it, Chipotle has become very synonymous with this type of bowl," Herzog tells Good Morning America

The identical vernacular "Burrito" and "Bowl" are the two primary options when you step into a Chipotle restaurant. Plus, as the news outlet points out, the ad campaign Sweetgreen has launched to market the new menu item uses white letters over an earthy red background — the same font and color scheme Chipotle uses in its branding. (Notably, Chipotle trademarked its signature "adobo red" color as a piece of company property.) The bowl also features tomato and red onion salsa and lime cilantro black beans (which are reminiscent of Chipotle's "Mild" salsa and signature cilantro-lime rice).

Sweetgreen has not yet released any comment on the situation.