Hispanic influence, non-Hispanic interest

The increasing numbers of Hispanic consumers — and the influence of Hispanic foods and flavors on mainstream American food — significantly impact the success of tortilla sales. The US Hispanic population totaled more than 55 million this year, according to an IRIWorldwide webinar, “Connect and Grow with Hispanic Consumers.” The US Census Bureau projected that number to grow to almost 60 million by 2020, composing more than half of the population.

“One contributing factor as to why tortillas are in hot demand is the continued popularity of Hispanic meals,” said Julie Nargang, vice-president of marketing/innovation, Azteca Foods, Chicago.

Tortillas outsell many traditional American staples like spaghetti or hamburger and hotdog buns, and all other fresh types of rolls, buns, croissants and bagels, according to “Hispanic Foods and Beverages in the US 5th Edition, 2012,” a report by Packaged Facts. Overall, the US market for Hispanic foods and beverages surpassed $8 billion in 2012, and it’s expected to reach $11 billion in 2017.

“Mexican food offers a more healthy option to the non-Hispanic buyer with the same fast and convenient service as more traditional segments,” said Alex Nin, general manager, Tortillas Inc., Las Vegas. “Don’t forget that Mexican food also offers more variety and bold flavors. People are getting tired of burgers and fries.”

Tortillas are not just for traditional Hispanic foods anymore

Hispanic foods and beverages appeal to a wide variety of consumers, not only to the growing Hispanic population but also to multicultural consumers and foodies, according to David Sprinkle, research director and publisher of the Packaged Facts report.

“Non-Hispanic consumers perceive that tortillas are a healthier alternative to sandwich bread,” Mr. Kabbani said. “If you are craving a McDonald’s hamburger, you can now have it wrapped in a tortilla.”

Tortillas are not just for traditional Hispanic foods anymore. “They have become a staple in family menu planning due to their versatility, being used in both Hispanic and non-Hispanic meals,” Ms. Nargang said.

Hispanic consumers exercise greater buying power than any minority ethnic group, according to IRIWorldwide. This year Hispanic consumers wielded 53% of the purchasing power among consumers, amounting to $1.5 trillion, due to larger families and younger wage earners in their prime earning years. Almost 73% of those surveyed in the Packaged Facts report acknowledged they use Mexican foods and ingredients; however, usage rates among Hispanics were a whopping 84%.