Tortillas come full circle

by Lynn Petrak
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If it isn’t a white bread world anymore, it’s not exactly a six-and-a-half inch round flour tortilla world, either. Mirroring trends in other bakery products, the tortilla category continues to broaden as manufacturers offer consumers more choices.

According to the most recent report on US Breads and Bread Products from market research firm Mintel, almost two-thirds of consumers reported buying the same amount or more of Hispanic breads, including tortillas, during the last six months.

As the category grows, part of it is shrinking. Mini tortillas are one example of product diversification, evident in new mini soft tortilla taco boats from General Mills’ Old El Paso line. The flexible package is as innovative as the product within the category, with a container molded to fit the boat-shaped tortilla stack inside.

Also reflecting general marketplace trends, new product introductions encompass more natural, organic and gluten-free varieties. In December, Mi Rancho, San Leandro, CA rolled out a line of organic, stone-ground corn tortillas that are also Non-GMO Project Verified.

“Consumers are looking for new products that meet important criteria such as non-GMO, organic and clean label,” said Fernando Alvear, vice-president of sales and marketing, Mi Rancho. “We have developed new packaging and graphics for our entire line to reflect our premium position in the market while highlighting critical attributes such as certifications, key ingredients and the fact that our products are made in California.”

Meanwhile, La Tortilla Factory, Santa Rosa, CA, introduced the first entirely non-GMO, USDA-certified organic line of tortillas last year under the “Sonoma” sub-brand.  Mission Foods, Inc., an Irving, TX, division of Gruma Corp., has added new gluten free tortillas to its sizable tortilla portfolio, available in an eight-count pack with bright green graphics and the large “Gluten Free” banner signaling the product’s attributes to shoppers.

Other tortilla makers are differentiating their organic and natural products in other ways. Pacqui’s, a tortilla company in Austin, TX, that was recently acquired by SkinnyPop Popcorn, LLC, makes its tortillas using stone-ground, non-bioengineered corn and offers flavors like roasted jalapeno. As with other natural and organic items, the label reflects the earth-friendlier aspects of the product, with a light brown label and natural-looking font in the graphics.

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