The tortilla chips market continues to evolve, catering to desires for bold and interestingly spiced products. Millennials, in particular, are craving adventurous and ethnic flavors. As a result, we’re starting to see a wider range of new and interesting flavors hitting the market.


Market data

According to data from IRI, Chicago, over the past 52 weeks ending April 22, 2018, the tortilla and tostada chips segment within salty snacks showed an increase of 4.18 percent to $5.3 billion in sales. Segment-leading Frito-Lay took the top spot, with $3.9 billion in sales, up 4.00 percent. Doritos accounted for $2.2 billion of that revenue, up 6.07 percent. Tostitos, with $637.3 million in sales, dropped off by 0.46 percent. Tostitos Scoops saw $478 million in sales and an increase of 1.71 percent.

Barcel USA—a subsidiary of Grupo Bimbo—saw dollar sales of $335.8 million, up a strong 18.84 percent thanks to its primary brand, Takis Fuego, which grew 18.57 percent to $302.0 million.

The On the Border brand from Truco Enterprises grew 4.04 percent for the year, taking in $189.7 million in sales. Mission Foods also saw its flagship brand grow for the year, up 4.48 percent to $75.7 million.

The organic line of tortilla chips from Late July Snacks—our 2018 “Snack Producer of the Year”—was up 19.69 percent in dollar sales to $43.2 million for the year. Late July’s regular line also saw strong growth, up 202.53 percent to $19.2 million.


Looking back

“Long gone are the days where a simple nacho cheese flavor is exciting to consumers,” says Jeff Day, brand manager, Paqui, part of Amplify Snack Brands, Austin, TX. He also notes that they continue to see consumer demand for tortilla chips made without artificial ingredients.

“Paqui’s Haunted Ghost Pepper flavor is performing well and meets the market demands for spice lovers,” says Day. “The flavor is made with real ghost peppers, and the chip lives up to the heat promised.”

Adventurous consumers often look to challenge their heat tolerance with spicier snacks, says Cassandra Edwards, senior manager marketing communications and customer engagement, snacks, Kerry, Beloit, WI. “When it comes to snacking, creating the perfect flavor is critical.”

Frito-Lay introduced Doritos Blaze at the beginning of 2018. The product offers a complex flavor in addition to progressively building heat levels as consumers continue to crunch on the chips.

Edwards notes that consumers are replacing meals with snacks, and are exploring new and adventurous flavors. Mintel notes that tortilla chips grew 22 percent from 2012–2017—and that new snacking tastes and textures are essential to continued growth. Mintel notes that specifically with chip flavors, 40 percent of consumers are seeking spicy flavors.

Edwards also points to some combined trends illustrated in the IRI 2018 “New and Emerging Snack Trends,” presented at SNAXPO by Sally Lyons Wyatt, who will also offer a keynote for the free 2018 Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery “State of the Industry: Snack & Bakery” webinar taking place on September 6. The IRI data points to strong growth of traditional flavors in 2017, but especially hot/spicy, which was up 14 percent. She also notes that and 34 percent of consumers are seeking exotic flavors.

Kerry has developed a portfolio of seasonings to target consumers looking to explore new taste experiences. Some seasoning profiles include Habanero Lime, Arrabbiata, Spicy Thai & Lemongrass and Kimchi.

“We also see the trend of multi-sensorial flavors that deliver two taste experiences in one chip such as the Doritos HeatWave,” Edwards remarks. The chips, launched in May 2017, start with a burst of bold flavor that transitions to spicy heat.

Another example of combined flavor dynamics can be seen in the Southern Recipe Cantina Mix from Rudolph Foods, released in July 2017. Each bag includes a mix of Hot ’N Spicy Pork Cracklins & Chili Limon Tortilla Chips, Corn Snacks and Wheat Snacks.

Foodservice and co-branding can also form points of influence. “On the Border has achieved retail success by leveraging its foodservice presence to provide a restaurant experience to consumers at home, focusing on authenticity and clean labels, and is expanding to include bold flavors,” says Edwards.

In March 2018, Truco Enterprises released its On the Border Taste of Tajín Clásico tortilla chips, made with Tajín brand seasoning, a popular Mexican condiment that combines chile peppers, lime and salt.


Looking forward

Streamlining production is key to generating profit in today’s snack market. To overcome the long time required for masa preparation, Heat and Control, Hayward, CA, has developed its Masa Maker, which lets snack producers prepare masa in minutes instead of hours, says Don Giles, director of sales, processing systems.

“Masa Maker eliminates the traditional 12 to 14 hour simmer/soak process with a new process that goes from dry corn to masa in approximately 20 minutes,” says Giles. “The process also eliminates wastewater effluent, steam boilers and the extended processing time required for traditional simmer/soak systems.”

In addition, Heat and Control’s partner, Ishida, has introduced a new bagmaker, Insprira, that offers consistent and automated performance with up to 500 presets, so that product runs can be shorter—a reality that snack producers regularly face as they diversify product lineups.

In the coming months and years, shoppers will continue to look for bold, new flavors of tortilla chips, as well as better-for-you options.

“The expansion of Takis from an ethnic-focused niche product to national distribution and prominence has opened the door for a variety of spicy flavors, both in the tortilla chip category and beyond,” says Edwards.

“Consumers also now look for added nutrition and features such as organic, vegan, natural and gluten-free options when snacking,” continues Edwards. This holds true considering the strong growth of the organic tortilla chips from Late July Snacks.

“Within the world of flavored tortilla chips, consumers want flavors that derive from real cheeses, real peppers and real spices,” says Day. “Consumers increasingly demand authenticity inside the bag. For example, that means that red comes from paprika, not red food dye.”

Giles suggests a few ideas for new product R&D, including more better-for-you choices. “Possibilities include more nutritious snacks with the addition of inclusions such as black bean, sesame, brown rice and pea flour,” he says. “To provide a greater variety of product choices for the consumer, companies are incorporating inclusions in tortilla chips, such as jalapeños, sesame seeds and bean flour.” This offers a more-nutritious option for health-focused consumers.

A balanced product portfolio helps snack producers offer something for everyone. “Traditional tortilla chips have always performed well in the marketplace, and with the addition of newer creative seasonings and inclusions, the category is ever-expanding,” says Giles.