For Tacombi, the secret for success has been around for centuries. It’s all about connecting American consumers to the true taste of Mexico.
Following this simple mission, the producer of Vista Hermosa branded tortillas had been busting at the seams at its 5,000-square-foot facility. In February, the company opened a 30,000-square-foot operation in Brooklyn, NY, that houses a couple of flour tortilla lines and a corn production room that makes tortillas and soon its Totopos branded corn chips.
“We do it the old-fashioned way,” said Laura Merritt, president of Tacombi. “We’re trying to show that truly authentic Mexican food has the highest standards for ingredients and sourcing and is a premium product. That’s really our difference.”
Vista Hermosa tortillas are now sold in 40 states at natural food stores as well as in its 15 Tacombi taquerias, where it offers traditional Mexican cuisine in New York, Miami and Washington, DC.
“We’re one of the few companies that uses corn that’s 100% nixtamalization, which provides a more corn-forward flavor, but it’s also more aromatic and unlocks a lot more nutrient density,” Ms. Merritt said.
Today’s successful tortilla producers are delving into the roots of classic Mexican cuisine to set them apart in this highly competitive market.
“There is nothing homogeneous about Mexican cuisine,” she said. “If you go into any one of our restaurants, you’re able to experience dishes from around the country because our mission is ‘connecting you to Mexico,’ and we use those dishes from around Mexico to connect people to different parts of the country. In the future with our innovation pipeline, we can pick up tortilla ideas from around Mexico and tell the story on the back of the package about why this certain region in Mexico makes them a certain way.”
Unlike the conventional Mexican and Tex Mex restaurant chain food that many Americans grew up eating, the real deal involves an array of flavorful regional flavors and specialty entrees from different parts of the country, noted Enrique Botello, senior marketing director, Olé Mexican Foods, the Norcross, Ga.-based producer of La Banderita Authentic Tortillas.
“Consumers are now more knowledgeable and not only about tortillas and Mexican food,” he observed. “You see it in spirits. Tequila used to be in fashion. Now it’s mezcal that consumers are looking for. They know what food they’re looking for from different regions, whether it’s from Southern Mexico where cochinita pibil (traditionally prepared by slow roasting pork in citrus juices) is a popular dish or a wide variety of tacos from Central Mexico.”
In Southern and Central Mexico, Mr. Botello pointed out, corn tortillas fuel the diet, although they can come in different sizes depending on the region. In Northern Mexico, flour tortillas predominate.
Such regional preferences for tortillas are also found in the United States and are fueling product innovation at Olé Mexican Foods.
In Texas, for instance, the company offers smaller, 6-inch, fajita-sized tortillas, while 8- or 10-inch tortillas are more popular in Western states where it launched its King Corn large tortillas that are used for frying and making taquitos. In the Northeast, wraps are a top seller.
“In Arizona, they like a thinner, almost translucent tortilla,” Mr. Botello said. “We launched one called Comalera for the grill. That’s a tortilla that will do really well in Arizona and Texas.”
With its new tortilla facility, Tacombi and its Vista Hermosa brand have plenty of room to grow. In addition to expanding its footprint in the Northeast, the company has expanded into the mid-Atlantic and Texas and out West, and it’s even looking to expand with burritos this year.
“I am particularly excited that we’re performing so well in Texas because if you look at the authoritative pockets on Mexican food in the country, winning in California and Texas is really important,” she said. “We’ll continue to expand across the country and make sure we’re a well-known and loved brand in the natural channel and will continue to expand out into the conventional.”
As the company branches out, Ms. Merritt said, it’s vital that the brand stays true to its roots.
“Knowing what authentic looks like and tastes like really gives us an opportunity to share a little bit of Mexico to all of our consumers that they can enjoy at home and share with others,” she noted.
For companies looking for inspiration, that’s the real deal when it comes to innovation.
This article is an excerpt from the April 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Tortillas & Flatbreads, click here.