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Chipotle Knocks Out Subway as America's Favorite 'Healthy' Chain

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Americans care less about calories and more about where ingredients are sourced from.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Americans no longer consider Subway to be the healthiest restaurant chain in the U.S. The sandwich shop has been unseated by burrito chain Chipotle. According to the Huffington Post, Chipotle is enjoying steady growth — the chain's first quarter sales increased by 20.5 percent this year — while sales at U.S. Subway locations fell by three percent last year.

Chipotle is transparent about the changes it's making

Darren Tristano, the executive vice president at food research company Technomic, tells Business Insider: "The fact [that Chipotle has] convinced consumers that the product is healthy is incredible. We're talking about 1300 calorie burritos." But customers have started to care less about calories and more about ingredients. Customers who once "praised" Subway's low-fat and low-calorie options are now those who are worried its ingredients are "overly processed with fillers and additives." It probably didn't help that Subway was using a chemical also found in yoga mats to make its bread.

Chipotle, on the other hand, is known for its higher quality ingredients. The chain is even willing to stop serving certain items if suppliers do not meet its standards. And in April, Chipotle announced that it no longer serves any GMO ingredients. The burrito chain is working a simpler, more wholesome tortilla recipe, too. Industry analyst Andrew Alvarez further explains Chipotle's appeal to the Huffington Post: "If you go into Chipotle, you see open grills and open preparation... the atmosphere is a little more hip, and they're transparent about the changes they're making."

Subway is not giving its customers what they want and is instead "reactive to what's happening to other industry players," notes Alvarez. For example, Subway recently announced that it would drop artificial ingredients by 2017, but that was only after a number of chains and companies like Papa John's and General Mills had already announced the same initiative.

It has been a rough few months for Subway: The chain's sales are declining and its (now former) spokesperson is now embroiled in major child pornography scandal. Earlier this month, the FBI raided Jared Fogle's home as part of an investigation in which he has been named a suspect.

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