For years, tortillas have been a staple in Hispanic menu offerings and have serviced countless Mexican entrees. In fact, they were primarily, and often times, only associated with tacos, burritos and quesadillas.

Thanks to penny-pinching consumers and a need for innovation, the tortilla has become the new “it” factor for several American entrees. And manufacturers are doling out healthier and more unique options to keep up with demand.

Earlier this year, for instance, French Meadow Bakery launched a lineup of nutrient-rich tortilla options that feature sprouted living grains. 

The Organic Wheat and Sprouted Grain variety is a soft blend of wheat and sprouted grains and legumes, and also is yeast free and high in protein and fiber.

Additionally, its Hemp tortillas are loaded with hempseed, flaxseed and organic pumpkin seeds and offer a rich source of Omegas 3 and 6.

Meanwhile, the company’s gluten-free option consists of 7-in., certified-organic tortillas that are made with rice flour and tapioca starch and deliver no trans fats.

“As [America] becomes more of a melting pot, and looking at the growth of the Hispanic culture in America, tortillas will continue to rise,” says Beth Naffziger, marketing manager for the Eagan, Minn.-based company. “Tortillas are an item with many applications and at price points that people can afford.”

Likewise, Circle Foods continues to focus on freshness with its line of uncooked tortilla-based products, says Eric Brenk, president and COO of the San Diego, Calif.-based tortilla producer.

“Our uncooked Tortillaland flour tortillas are great tasting because we make them from the highest quality, all-natural ingredients, and [the consumer] bakes or cooks them for the very first time at home,” Brenk says. “So they are always delicious and fresh with an unbeatable texture — chewy on the inside and grilled and slightly brown on the outside.”

For its part, Harbar LLC rolled out an assortment of all-natural tortillas, sold under the Maria and Ricardo’s brand. Available in 8- and 12-count packages, these vegan-certified tortillas come in White Flour, Whole Wheat, Multigrain, Tomato & Basil, Spinach and Corn varieties.

Additionally, the Mayan Farm Tortillas line, also produced by Canton, Mass.-based Harbar, delivers fresh-from-the-oven taste and authentic Mexican flavor in a soft, pliable, all-natural tortilla that contains zero trans fat, cholesterol or hydrogenated oils. Consumers can choose from a 6-, 8- or 10-count package of White Flour Fajita, White Flour Soft Taco or White Flour Burritos tortillas, or pick up a low-fat, low-sodium, gluten-free 12- or 30-count package of White Corn Flour tortillas.

Tortilla lovers also can dive into the company’s Healthy Options assortment, which suggests 8-count packages of Whole Wheat, Multi-Grain, White Flour Low Carb and Whole Wheat Low Carb varieties.

Moreover, MexAmerica Foods, LLC, St. Marys, Pa., created FreshMex tortillas, which are the first all-natural tortillas that guarantee a 90-day, mold-free shelf life while maintaining freshness and texture. Additionally, they are made with 100% non-hydrogenated soybean oil, are low in calories and contain zero cholesterol, preservatives and trans-fat. These 8- and 10-in. sizes come in White Flour and 100% Honey Whole Wheat options, the company says.

MexAmerica also launched a flavored wrap line, which is available in Honey Whole Wheat, Sundried Tomato Basil, Garden Spinach & Pesto, Garlic Herb and Jalapeño Cheese varieties. These 10-in wraps contain zero trans fat and come six per package.

Cultural Crossings

Tortilla producers continue to experiment with cultural alternatives in unconventional varieties, including a new wave of trendy flatbreads.

For the past several years, Circle Foods has explored with various ethnic offerings by introducing an uncooked roti chapatti product, Brenk says, which serves as an Indian food “tortilla” alternative. It also is in the process of rolling out uncooked multigrain wraps.

“As consumers have traded down to less expensive meal alternatives, including burritos, soft tacos, wraps, etc., [the use of tortillas] has increased,” he says. “Ethnic products in this country have become much more mainstream and variations related there to, be it tortillas, flatbreads, chapattis and such, will continue to grow as consumers look for variety and new offerings.”

In fact, Brenk says traditional tortillas filled with Carne Asada, or roast beef, are popular within the marketplace.

“As an at-home favorite, I use our Tortillaland tortillas and wrap just about anything, from turkey, lettuce and cheese, to a shrimp salad wrapped as a burrito,” he adds.

Furthermore, tortillas are functioning as wraps, which provides for a more portable, on-the-go menu offering that fits consumers’ hectic lifestyles.

“Wraps in general, no matter if it [is] a pita, naan or other, are on the upswing,” Naffziger says. “[They] are very versatile with it being lighter, available in different flavors and are the basis of the most common portable hand-held meals. Also [they] can be steamed, baked, fried and used in a number of other ways, many of which are kid-friendly.”

Another consumer favorite, she adds, are tortillas used as a component in French Meadow Bakery’s breakfast quesadillas, which include eggs, Cheddar cheese, black beans and spinach.

“We are always looking for the latest trends,” Naffziger says.

What used to be the norm isn’t anymore, and the tortilla producers have the products to prove it. 


Mix ‘n Match Mexican Style

Regardless of the ingredients or taste, tortillas are components that still require a bit of dressing up. That’s why Azteca Foods offers a plethora of meal accessories necessary in delivering an authentic, homemade Mexican meal.

For starters, the Summit-Argo, Ill.-based company introduced an arrangement of meat fillings with its Cilantro Lime Chicken, slow-cooked Pork Carnitas and braised Beef Barbacoa.

Additionally, it provides such toppings as Queso Quesadilla mild shredded cheese and Mexican rice with roasted tomatoes and ancho ciles. Or consumers can select from pinto beans with fire-roasted tomatoes, ancho chiles and bacon or Black beans, which contain fire-roasted corn, tomatoes and poblano peppers.

And to complete any Mexican-style dish, the company offers Roasted Tomato and Roasted Chile Salsa and sauces in such varieties as Traditional Mexican Mole, Guajillo Chile Enchilada and Tomatillo and Poblano Chile.

Azteca makes it so any consumer can mix and match to make their entrees.

The Recipe Box

Because tortilla manufacturers have made it easy for consumers to whip up a Mexican-style dish, it’s only customary that they trade recipes and expand their at-home meal portfolio.

That’s why companies like Tortillas, Inc., located in North Las Vegas, Nev., post a handful of unconventional recipes on their Web site.

Aside from quesadillas and chicken enchiladas, the site also includes a tortilla soup recipe, which calls for 10, 6-in. corn tortillas, cut into half-inch strips.

Azteca Foods’ recipe collection includes Grilled Pork Tacos, Hot Corned Beef Wraps, Chicken & Rice Wraps and the traditional BBQ Chicken Quesadillas. The Summit-Argo, Ill.-based company also extends beyond the limits to include a Mexican Egg Bake recipe, which is made up of six Azteca Flour tortillas, 12 eggs and a half cup of milk, among other ingredients, Potato Stuffed Enchiladas, Tex Mex Torta and Sloppy José’s, which is a Mexican twist on an American classic.