The tortilla chip category enjoyed a healthy boost in sales during the past year, in spite of the fact that the numbers of bags placed in shopping carts barely budged—thanks to the price increases seen throughout the grocery store and elsewhere.

Survey data and other research has shown consumer interest in both healthier options and unique flavors, and brands say they have responded accordingly—and are formulating additional options to do so in the coming months.


Market data

The tortilla/tostada chip category saw a healthy 7.3% rise in sales to $6.77 billion for the 52 weeks ending April 17, according to multi-outlet data from IRI, Chicago. Unit sales were up 0.4% to 2.33 billion, while price-per-unit rose 19 cents to $2.91.

The Doritos brand continued its dominance of the category with $3.0 billion in sales, up 8.9%, representing nearly half (44.7%) of the total. A solid second place went to Tostitos, with $1.5 billion in sales, up 3.4%, for nearly another quarter (21.7%) of market share. Barcel, the third-highest seller, rose a whopping 27.6% to $762.3 million, capturing 11.3% market share.

Private label tortilla/tostada sales in the aggregate fell 8.9% to $291.1 million, while other brands with at least $100 million in sales for the 52-week period ending April 17 included On the Border, $267.0 million, up 14.5%; Santitas, $165.2 million, down 10.2%; and Mission, $105.0 million, up 5.1%.


Looking back

The pandemic has brought the importance of healthfulness to the forefront in all types of categories, and consumers are emerging with renewed wellness goals, says Deana Sabatino, vice president of snacks at Hain Celestial, Lake Success, NY, which produces the Garden of Eatin’ chip brand—which sold $35.2 million for the 52 weeks ending April 17, down 9.0%.

Food Industry Association consumer surveys show that more than half of U.S. adults would like to be eating healthier, Sabatino says. “Tortilla chips help consumers snack without over-indulging,” she says. “Natural tortilla chips are growing at an impressive, almost 20% growth rate in the past year and outpacing conventional tortilla chips’ growth—showing continued demand for better-for-you opportunities in the tortilla chip category.”

Taste and flavor exploration will always play a critical role in snacking categories like tortilla chips, Sabatino says. “Consumers are interested in experimenting with new and unique flavors to treat themselves,” she says. Citing a report from Mintel, Chicago, she adds, “More than 40% of chip consumers are motivated to try new chips if they have unique flavors.

Garden of Eatin’ has improved its formulation to deliver a crunchier, tastier chip, dubbed the “Now Even Tastier” Chip, which has helped spur 10% growth in sales year-over-year of the brand’s organic blue corn tortilla chips, Sabatino says. “The changes in our pack sizes have allowed us to promote Garden of Eatin’ more effectively by driving display through bundling with other snack brands in the Hain portfolio, including Terra Chips and Sensible Portions.”

Tortilla chip manufacturers have released a number of new products during the past year, including the LTO “No Mo’ FOMO” chip kit from Tostitos, which includes a mix of the brand’s hottest flavors—Hint of Spicy Queso, Hint of Guacamole, and Habanero—merchandised within an interactive box that contains party sound and lighting. The limited-edition release is part of the brand’s “Don’t Miss the Good Stuff” campaign, which includes a new party game on Tostitos’ Instagram and Snapchat channels.

A new brand in the tortilla chip category, Chipoys, bills itself as “authentic Mexican hot chips made louder!!!” The rolled chip product, first launched in convenience stores in the U.S. with expansion goals that include big-box retailers along with Canada and Latin America, comes in three flavors: Fire Red Hot, Lemon Chile and Spicy Ranch, and in both 2- and 4-ounce bags.

In other new developments during the second half of 2021:

  • The Santitas brand from Frito-Lay rolled out a line extension with the new Santitas Flavored Cilantro Lime variety of its tortilla chips. 
  • The founders of KIND Snacks released the SOMOS brand of tortilla chips, which they say are thicker, crunchier, and hence more authentically Mexican than most brands sold in the U.S.
  • Kazoo Snacks unveiled the Lime Zest flavor of Kazoo Tortilla Chips, made from 40% upcycled corn germ, which the brand says provides enormous savings in water usage.
  • The Doritos brand from Frito-Lay added the Doritos Dinamata Flamin’ Hot Queso flavor to its lineup, alongside other recent SKUs like Doritos Tangy Ranch and Doritos Tangy Pickle.


Looking forward

Going forward, Hain Celestial and Garden of Eatin’ plans to continue the tradition of founder Al Jacobson, who launched the first-ever blue corn chip, “embracing a heritage crop and turning it into a delicious snack,” Sabatino says. “Today, the brand builds on our history by supporting organic farming and other important sustainable practices that give back to the planet that supports our ‘Garden.’ You’ll see sustainability continue to play an integral role for the brand, including our future innovations.”

That jibes with the preferences of consumers, 85% of whom responded to a Simon-Kucher & Partners, Chicago, study by saying they have shifted their purchasing behavior toward becoming more sustainable in the past five years, Sabatino says. 

“Consumers can support more sustainable practices in the tortilla chip category today by buying products that support organic farmers,” she says. “We expect the demand for more sustainable products to continue to rise and impact many aspects of the category, such as packaging, innovation, sourcing processes, and more.”

Source: IRI Market Advantage, Integrated Fresh, Total U.S. - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers), 52 Weeks Ending 04-17-22