KANSAS CITY, MO — Flat-out versatile, tortillas offer incredible culinary possibility with numerous uses throughout multiple dayparts. Tortillas can be found throughout the store, but center aisle makes up the bulk of business with sales of $3.07 billion. This number represents a $96.7 million sales change and a 3.3% change vs. a year ago. In the 52 weeks ending May 15, sales trends in the category from both dollar and unit perspectives were similar, growing about 3% in dollars and declining around 4% in units.

Flour tortillas lead the category with $2.34 billion in dollar sales, a 3.7% sales change vs. a year ago, outpacing that of corn and shell tortillas. Sales of corn tortillas were lower at $732 million, a 1.9% sales change vs. a year ago. Shell tortillas ($745,254) saw a -3.1% dip in dollar sales versus a year ago with a negative change of $23,615 vs. a year ago.

Small, yet mighty, sales in the perimeter were recorded at nearly $18 million, a 3.7% change vs. a year ago, and 7.5 million current unit sales.

According to the Tortilla Industry Association (TIA), tortillas are the second-most popular bread in America, beating wheat bread, bagels and rolls and demonstrating far greater versatility.

This is seen in sales trends within the hamburger and hot dog bun category during those same 52 weeks. Hamburger and hot dog bun sales saw a slight decrease of -1.9% in dollar sales vs. a year ago, representing $2.47 billion in sales and a $49 million sales decrease vs. a year ago.


Evolving demographics also support greater tortilla use, where tortillas over-index among larger families with children, as well as millennials and Generation X. The retail tortilla market is a $2.12 billion market in the US, and 62.5% of food industry suppliers — commercial and non-commercial — report using tortillas in their operations, according to TIA. This is predicted to grow over the next few years.

Unlike bread’s high purchasing watermark during the pandemic, tortilla purchases are up vs. pre-pandemic and during the pandemic with dollars rising due to inflation/price increase. Units are up 9% vs. pre-pandemic (2019), but down -5% during the pandemic due to increased mobility among consumers as well as supply chain issues, according to Melissa Altobelli, principal, strategic solutions group of IRI.

Norcross, GA-based Ole Mexican Foods is capitalizing on the health trend with its Ole Xtreme Wellness tortillas, carb-lean, low-calorie, low GI load tortillas available made with extra-virgin olive oil and flax seeds. These tortillas saw a 13.1% dollar sales change vs. a year ago with $95 million in sales, making Xtreme Wellness flour tortillas No. 3 in the category brand rank.

Altobelli said products with gluten-free claims are also demonstrating strong growth, accounting for around 10% of unit sales and $420 million in dollar sales, a 9.6% increase vs. a year ago. Keto, another dietary favorite, is seeing a rise in claim adoption among low-carb brands, with product packaging often featuring both claims together. Despite making multiple annual trend lists, protein is still a very small segment and likely not a big opportunity for growth, according to Altobelli. Products with vegan/­vegetarian claims are also declining.

Irving, TX-based Mission Foods, a subsidiary of Gruma Corp., leads the tortilla category as the No. 1 manufacturer of tortillas in America. The top-selling tortilla brand holds the No. 1 spot with its Mission Carb Balance tortillas. Its flour tortillas posted $293 million in sales, a 15.5% change vs. a year ago. The company produces a variety of flour and corn tortillas including new Sweet Hawaiian flour tortillas in a street taco size.

“Consumers can end up acquiring ‘affordable splurges,’ which are those preferred, premium products for home consumption. It’s still cheaper than eating out, and there are examples of this movement in previous recessions.” — JP Frossard | VP of consumer goods | Rabobank Group


Tortilla Land, the No. 4 player in brand rank with $53 million in sales, is answering the call for greater authenticity. The company claims to eliminate the hassle of making traditional tortillas from scratch with its ready-to-cook varieties.

Additionally, the share of home-prepared meals continues to average around 80%, according to IRI International.

Those looking to trade down may also consider private label tortillas, a category that’s experienced a 16.5% increase in dollar sales vs. a year ago, reflecting $42.7 million in sales.

“Seventy-seven percent of consumers chose differently when buying groceries in May,” Altobelli said. “This was up another six points from the April survey, when 71% of consumers bought differently.”

Pack variety is also helping shoppers respond to inflationary pressures that impact purchasing choices. The largest pack, an 8-count, 12-oz. size, is driving the most growth. IRI also identified interest coming from the smaller 6-count, 7-oz. size, though in larger families, the 18-count, 30-oz. size is the primary driver.

As many contemplate the choice between a home-cooked meal and restaurant outing, tortillas are well positioned for the future with an expectation of stabilization or growth, depending on how long inflation lasts.

This story has been adapted from the August | Q3 2022 issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.