Tortillas have become a versatile carrier for many meals. While typically associated with Mexican foods, tortillas can be used across a broad range of foods and cuisines. The growth of tortillas has also been spurred by a surge in the popularity of Mexican food. Emiko Brook, senior brand manager, Old El Paso, shared that Mexican food is now the second-most common meal eaten in U.S. households.
Jim Kabbani, CEO of, Tortilla Industry Association, says, “During the pandemic, most demand for tortillas shifted from foodservice to retail, now that we have recovered, retail didn’t lose the ground that it gained but held steady as foodservice grew again.” He also notes that like other industries, the tortilla category is impacted by labor shortages and supply chain challenges; however, on the upside, he has seen increased consumer demand as a result of greater innovation.
Coming off a prior year of flat performance, the tortilla category experienced double-digit growth. The largest category (hard/soft tortillas and taco kits) saw strong growth of +15.1% resulting in $3.77 billion for the 52-week period ending March 26, 2023, according to multi-outlet data from Circana. Market leader Mission Brands (which has a 39% market share) grew +13.2% to $1.46 billion. Several other top performers in the category include Guerrero ($516.5 million, up 24.1%); Old El Paso ($448.2 million, an increase of 10.1%); and La Banderita ($361.8 million, 21.6% growth). Private label also saw growth of 17.9%, resulting in $232.0 million in sales.
The refrigerated tortilla/egg roll/wonton wrap category, while smaller in size, also grew by double digits, increasing 14.6% to $215.7 million. Driving the growth was Tortilla Land, the market leader with a 44% share, up 21.5% to $62.7 million. Other top performers in the category include Siete ($23.2 million, up 11.7%) and La Abuela ($10.7 million, up 19.5%).
Center-store wraps was the only category to experience a decline; it dropped -2.5% to $90.5 million.
Old El Paso is a brand known for its variety of Mexican meal solutions and the brand’s goal is to help families celebrate, connect, and have fun together through food. The company conducted consumer research and found that consumers expressed interest in more convenience in their taco meal preparation experience. This led the company to expand their hand-held offerings and introduce two new products: Tortilla Pockets and Tortilla Pocket Kit.
Brook describes the new products: “Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets were introduced mid-2022. The products are the first-of-their-kind, easy-to-hold soft flour tortillas with a sealed bottom for easy filling and less mess. Just add your favorite taco or burrito fillings, making these perfect for grab-and-go breakfast burritos, easy lunchbox sandwiches, and more. Since introducing Old El Paso Pockets, we have seen positive growth for Old El Paso and good market performance, including the Pockets becoming a Top Turning product in U.S. Food and Walmart.”
The Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets come in an eight-pack and retail for $3.68; they are available at leading retailers nationwide. The company also offers Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets Kits, which includes Old El Paso Taco Seasoning and Original Taco Sauce for even more added convenience.
Ricardo Baez, president of Don Pancho, is seeing a continuing trend in better-for-you in the tortilla category. “Organic, non-GMO, carb control or even zero-carbs are taking a more prominent role,” he says. “We are also seeing a continuing demand for plant-based tortilla at a slower rate. Traditional whole wheat tortillas are also gaining popularity on the shelf.” The company responded to the trends and launched their carb control wrap. They have also recently introduced new products with exciting new flavors such as Hawaiian Flavored Wraps, Asian Inspired Wraps, and Waffle Inspired Wraps.
Ezequiel Montemayor, CEO of Maria and Ricardo’s, notes seeing a general trend towards smaller sizes and gradually increasing expectations around better and cleaner ingredients in foodservice, while seeing trends towards lower carbs and alternative grains in retail. Based on these trends, the company recently launched Almond Flour Keto tortillas that are low in carbs, paleo-friendly, gluten-free, and grain-free.
Gary Brown, vice president of sales and marketing, LaTortilla Factory, shares the trends he is seeing in foodservice and retail. “In foodservice authentic is always the holy grail of products, and the company recently launched their Handmade Style line of products,” he relates. “The products are slightly smaller and significantly thicker than our standard tortilla and made with whole grains, and/or white corn or yellow corn. The handmade style items give the great taste of corn, but are more pliable like a traditional flour tortilla; which we believe gives customers the best of both worlds.”
In retail, says Brown, “The biggest wins in tortillas are still coming with low-carb products. This low-carb trend is one of the reasons we are working hard with our retail partners to launch our complete lineup of Carb Cutting products. We want customers to have the exact products they need for their diets.” The company launched its Carb Cutting line this year; it is anchored by the soft taco-size, zero-net-carb tortilla and features both a whole wheat and traditional flour tortilla that are still keto-friendly at four net carbs each.
Many of the manufacturers concur the biggest factors impacting the tortilla industry are supply chain challenges, inflation, and a tight labor market. Baez notes, “Food inflation has had a tremendous impact on the entire industry and will continue to have an impact for the foreseeable future. Labor and labor constraints continue to influence our industry. A tight labor market has led to wage inflation being another important factor affecting our industry and our overall economy.”
Montemayor notes some continuing supply chain challenges: “Agricultural commodities are still at a considerably higher cost compared to pre-COVID times. Suboptimal harvest in the U.S. and global supply restrictions due to the Ukraine/Russian war are also contributing to the stronger costs that persists even amid the end of the pandemic.” Most of the companies are aware of these challenges and taking proactive measures to minimize the impact of these factors.
Most companies indicate they will continue to track consumer trends to help identify opportunities for innovation and build a pipeline for new products that will continue to grow the business.
Baez shared forthcoming new products from Don Pancho to be on the lookout for. The company will be launching “el comal”-style tortillas, along with Baja Inspired Wraps and Zero Net Carb Wraps
Montemayor said that the company will continue to build on their portfolio of better-for-you varieties and monitor consumer trends for opportunities to add value and attract more consumers to the tortilla category.
With lots of opportunity for innovation, expect the growth of the tortilla category to continue rolling along.