The Bottom Line:

  • Tortilla chips category increasing in sales
  • Great taste, texture are key
  • Americans bond over snacks

Whether consumed while snacking alone or with friends, tortilla chips are versatile. They can be eaten alone; they also can function as a dipper for ingredients such as salsa, guacamole, or melted cheese. The tortilla chips category has experienced an increase in sales from last year, possibly because people are getting together with friends more in homes than a year before, watching football or other sports on TV, playing games, or having other kinds of social fun.

Market data

According to Chicago-based market research firm Circana’s data from the past 52 weeks, which ended on February 26, the salty snacks category brought in a whopping $36 billion, with an increase of 15.8% from the prior year. The “tortilla/tostada chips” category provided $7.838 billion of that, with an increase of 18.4% from 2022.

Source: Circana OmniMarket™ Total Store View | Geography : Total US - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military, and Select Club & Dollar Retailers) | Time : Latest 52 Weeks Ending 02-26-23

Doritos, a Frito-lay brand, led the pack, with $3.552 billion and a 21.4% increase in sales, followed by another Frito-lay brand, Tostitos, with $3.552 billion and a 10.8% increase. Barcel followed, with $974 million in sales and a notable 31.9% increase in sales.

Also to note is Paqui, which brought in $34.5 million in sales but increased by 29.9%; Sabritas, with $23.1 million in sales and a 44.5% increase; and Tortilleria Mi Nina, with a modest $15 million in sales but a 119.9% increase from the previous year.


“Consumers are loyal to brands they know and love, but they also want variety,” says Leslie Vesper, vice president of brand marketing, Frito-Lay, Plano, TX.

According to the most recent Frito-Lay Snack Index, 71% of respondents are “excited to try new flavors or variations of their favorite snacks,” she says. “That passion drives us to continue innovating our classic tortilla chips and bring new, interesting flavors to our fans, like Tostitos Mexican Style Three Cheese.”

“Snacks have the power to bring people together—in fact, 59% of Americans have bonded over their preferences. We see this statistic take form through different buying occasions, like holidays and cultural moments, such as Super Bowl,” Vesper notes.

“It’s also important to understand the culture behind these snacking moments. We don't view chips as just chips—instead, they are the catalyst for a joy-filled moment. People are starting to incorporate tortilla chips into their cooking routines and creating new culinary experiences for their friends and family—Tostitos are being brought to the table in new ways, quite literally, and we’re excited to start innovating around that,” she finishes.

Sarah Wallace, CEO, and founder, Beanitos, Berkeley, CA, says that the tortilla chip market continues to grow after the pandemic, with consumers looking for more opportunities to replace eating out with exciting in-home dining/snacking experiences.

“While by and large tortilla chip consumers are brand- and flavor-loyal, millennials and Gen-Z in particular are brand-agnostic and excited by intriguing packaging and flavors—the bolder and spicier, the better,” she says.

“At the end of the day, while the better-for-you chip market is still strong, chips are not fundamental to a health-and-wellness dietary commitment, so better-for-you chip manufacturers need to continue to laser-focus on great taste and texture. Health benefits are good, but nothing is better than a great eating experience without qualifications,” Wallace adds.

“It's key to keep in mind that ultimately, chips are about comfort, enjoyment, relaxation, and sensory satiety—the whole package, really. So simply pushing health benefits onto consumers in this category is not as effective, as for example, in the categories of nutrition bars or similar snacks,” she notes.

On the other hand, Josh Death, founder, Kazoo Snacks, Dallas, TX, says he’s excited to see a lot of growth and innovation within the tortilla chip aisle.

“Lately, we’re noticing a shift towards cleaner chips with a short list of ingredients,” Death says. “For instance, our sea salt tortilla chip is made with just corn, upcycled corn germ, corn (or sunflower) oil, and sea salt. While certifications like gluten-free and organic still matter, many consumers are adopting a more plant-based lifestyle and are looking for versatile products that are inclusive of their dynamic diet. As a result, we’re beginning to see a rise in vegan, low-carb, low-sugar, and keto-friendly options. The more boxes a product can check, the better.”

Don Pancho Tortilla Chips
Courtesy of Don Pancho

“Moreover, as the effects of climate change become more noticeable, we’re also seeing an increased adoption of upcycled, sustainable, and climate-friendly foods. However, it's important to note that flavor is still a crucial factor for consumers. There’s a new expectation for brands to embrace responsible sourcing and manufacturing processes while delivering great taste and exciting flavors,” Death finishes.

Ricardo Baez, president, Don Pancho, Salem, OR, agrees, and says that consumers are placing continued importance on authenticity and seeking products that align with their values—both in terms of ingredients and the way a product is manufactured.

“People want products that they can identify and that match their values. Today’s consumer wants fewer, but better ingredients, in their chips. Recognizing the importance of using high-quality ingredients, with fewer preservatives and additives, is what will continue to drive category growth,” he suggests.

Julia Hecht, CMO, HIPPEAS, New York, NY, says that the tortilla chip category has really evolved over the past few years, with a variety of interesting vegetable and legume-based products being launched that offer superior nutritional benefits like protein and fiber.  

“We’ve seen amazing innovation on cheese flavors that are vegan, as well as new healthier products that offer both better-for-you and better-for-the-planet benefits,” she shares.

“HIPPEAS focuses on reinterpreting broadly appealing category favorites—like tortilla chips—within a better-for-you framework. We keep our finger on the pulse in regard to the attributes our consumers demand and love about HIPPEAS through frequency consumer research that allows us to develop a strong understanding of our core consumer,” Hecht explains.

In terms of sustainability, she says, the company has found that the HIPPEAS consumer prioritizes products that are vegan/dairy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, and still delicious—zero compromise when it comes to taste.

HIPPEAS Chickpea tortilla chips
Courtesy of HIPPEAS

“We’ve also known that HIPPEAS consumers are focused on sustainability and our product delivers—our chickpeas are farmed using practices like conservation tillage to improve soil erosion and crop rotations that improve soil health,” Hecht says. “Our pulse crops are farmed using 10% of the water of most proteins, which means 90% less water taken from Mother Nature. Chickpeas also naturally use less fertilizer by pulling nitrogen from the air, which helps lower the brand's carbon footprint. At HIPPEAS, we believe that sustainable farming (and snacking!) is the way forward.”


“Tortilla chips have traditionally been made with 100% corn, as corn fries into a crispy, thin chip quite easily. When innovating with tortilla chips it becomes very challenging to have any ingredient, let alone a legume, as the first ingredient without the chip becoming either dense or mealy in texture,” Hecht says.

“[However,] we managed to break the mold with our chickpea tortilla chips. As a result, our HIPPEAS Chickpea Tortilla Chips are higher in protein, fiber, and vegetable content, and are the solution for those looking to satisfy their snack cravings but are unwilling to compromise on texture and flavor. We are particularly proud of our recently launched HIPPEAS Chickpea Tortilla Chip flavor: Nacho Vibes,” she adds.

HIPPEAS Nacho Vibes Chickpea Tortilla Chips are vegan and contain 3g of protein and 3g of fiber per 1-ounce serving and are made without any artificial colors, flavors, or ingredients.

Vesper says that knowing what Frito-Lay’s fans want is a top priority for the brand.

“We’re consistently creating new ways for consumers to enjoy their favorite snacks, whether they’re dipping them, eating them on their own, or adding them to their meal routines. Being innovative and showing up for consumers in new and exciting ways is something we strive for,” she says.

Tostitos Mexican Style Three Cheese
Courtesy of Frito-Lay

“At Frito-Lay, we are constantly searching for the next big culinary adventure, and staying up to date on those trends is important. We often look to social media as a means of insight and connection. Food is one of the greatest connectors for people, so we set out to offer products that act as the centerpiece for fostering connections, a nostalgic bite during a favorite pastime, or the canvas for memorable recipes,” Vesper explains.

“You’ll see this come to life through our flavor innovations and the way we engage with fans in person. For example, Tostitos opened its first pop-up restaurant, TOST by Tostitos, during Super Bowl LVII to reach consumers in a new way and show them how they can use their favorite Tostitos to create meals. We noticed that fans were using tortilla chips in unique ways in their cooking, so we took this insight and created a pop-up experience that was available in Scottsdale during the Super Bowl. It’s important to be on-trend and stay on-trend, but we also keep our eyes and ears open for emerging trends,” she finishes.

Death says chasing the latest trends will leave founders in any industry in “a bit of a hamster wheel—that's why it's important for brands to lead with their values first.”

“At Kazoo, we care immensely about people and the environment, and we believe the majority of consumers do as well. So we do our best to create products that we, and people like us, would like to see on grocery shelves,” he notes.

“We set out to create upcycled tortilla chips with a low water footprint because that product did not yet exist in the marketplace. We also wanted to reduce our footprint in a measurable way, so it was important that consumers could measure their environmental impact by putting water-saving claims on our packaging—something we haven't yet seen from other brands,” Death adds.

“We do our best to stay informed with current events and industry news about what is happening environmentally, and we read the comments on news articles to glean public sentiment—especially when a major brand releases a wild, new flavor,” he explains.

Old El Paso Chips
Courtesy of General Mills

“We also have conversations with friends, family members, and strangers alike, observing their snacking patterns and finding out what they enjoy eating while binge-watching their favorite shows. We look for unique flavor combinations on restaurant menus and even listen to what foodies are talking about and trying on social media (we love a good reaction video or taste test on TikTok). You'd be surprised how much insight can be gleaned from just listening and being observant about the world around us,” Death adds.

“[For example, we] noticed brands making grain-free tortilla chips and chips using non-corn ingredients. This includes chips made from unique items such as sweet potatoes or cactus. Additionally, there is a growing trend towards upcycled products, and we are seeing more upcycled tortilla chips hit the market. Brands are also investing in uniquely flavored items, chips with added spice, and products that offer a protein boost,” he concludes.

Baez says Beanitos relies on, and collaborates with, its trusted suppliers and valued customers, and tries to stay on top of emerging cuisines, and flavor profiles that resonate with consumers.

“We are also very fortunate in that we have passionate followers who also give us feedback on what they like and what is important to them. At the end of the day, it’s really all about staying close to your customers, being bold, and willing to try new things,” he recommends.

“We continue to see innovation in the ‘simple ingredients/better-for-you’ category. Leveraging different types of ingredients in the plant-based category that can create a different type of experience,” Baez suggests.

Collin Taylor, associate brand manager, General Mills, Minneapolis, says that through the company’s consumer research and testing, it has seen consumers take an interest in unique crispy and crunchy textures.

“This led to our expansion into the chip aisle with the launch of Old El Paso Fiesta Twists, in three sweet and savory Tex-Mex flavors: Queso, Zesty Ranch, and Cinnamon Churro. Since 2019, tortilla chip sales have grown by over 45%, per Nielsen, outpacing the total salty snacks category. This, when paired with Old El Paso's strength in all-family Mexican flavors, made the tortilla/corn chip space a natural fit for the brand,” he explains.

“Families are a major growth driver for the category, yet are historically underserved. Fiesta Twists can help close that gap by focusing on Tex-Mex flavors the whole family can enjoy. Our research and development team helps us gain insights into the latest trends to ensure we’re continually innovating and bringing new products to market that we know consumers will love,” Taylor says.

“We’re seeing tortilla chip innovations on form, expanding beyond flat or rolled chips, and unique flavors. This was front of mind for Old El Paso as we developed Fiesta Twists, given their unique shape,” he finishes.

Wallace says that as a scrappy, entrepreneurial brand, Beanitos doesn’t have the resources to do the kind of exhaustive consumer validation work that larger CPG's have access to, so instead, it “does what we do best, which is to get creative, pay attention, watch socio-cultural dynamics around us, and dive into syndicated data to see what's actually selling.”

“I'd like to think this makes us smarter and more nimble since we're not stuck in a quagmire of analysis, or worse, guided blindly by what consumers report they are going to do, versus what they actually do, at moments of truth in the grocery store aisle. We are also very inspired by the rise of global, inclusive multicultural brands in all kinds of categories that are bringing exciting, authentic offerings to the table and paving the way to create a truly global marketplace across all aisles, not just the ‘international’ set,” she explains.

As far as innovation, Wallace has been “enjoying watching the rise of regionally authentic tortilla chip launches, such as thick-cut totopo-style chips, as well as chips made from alternative grains such as cassava, but with an authentic origin story behind them, more than just a ‘grain-free’ or other niche claim, she says.

“The rise of ‘single-origin’ claims in the U.S. is also heartening to watch, something that UK brands like Tyrell's have been doing for years,” Wallace comments.

What’s next

Vesper says Tostitos is all about creating connection and togetherness, whether it’s at a party, around the dinner table, or while watching the big game.

“We are always on the hunt for new, exciting snacking experiences for our fans and make sure to keep a pulse on what they’re telling us via social media,” she notes.

Kazoo Snacks will be rebranding, says Death, and the brand is excited to announce that it is currently launching in Sprouts Farmers Markets nationwide with a completely new look.

“Our products will have the same great taste but will feature a more Earth-centric look with a ‘low water footprint’ callout to help eco-minded customers find us on shelves. We also plan to launch a few new flavors in the coming months that will be sold exclusively at Sprouts. Our hope is that these new flavors will give sustainable snackers more upcycled snacking options. Lastly, we're in the final stages of obtaining our Upcycled Foods Certification,” Death notes.

Baez says Don Pancho will be launching its new plant-based chips soon.

“We like the flavor profile of garbanzo beans and how it gives us flexibility to enhance the presence in this space. For 2023, [we have announced] the expansion of our plant-based offerings, as well as our extension of our flavored corn tortilla chips that highlights street corn, and our authentic Totopo Style chips. We are very excited to offer these innovative new items this year.”

Wallace says that Beanitos is excited to unveil its rebrand of its core Tortilla Chips line.

“We acquired the brand a couple of years ago, and after spending COVID getting to really understand it, have just launched packaging that honors its origin story—Beanitos invented the bean tortilla chip in Austin, TX, back in 2010—while also highlighting our passion for regenerative agriculture and responsible, domestic supply chains,” she shares.

“We source all our beans from American family farms, delivering transparency through the value-chain that we can feel proud of, and the packaging showcases the product's Tex-Mex origins and bold flavors,” Wallace says.

“We also improved the formulation, making the chip a true cantina-style tortilla chip with benefits, that

everyone can enjoy eating and sharing, not just for health reasons, but because they are really tasty, dippable chips. I hope that we have done [justice to] the original vision of the brand and its Texas roots,” she finishes.