VERSATILITY BOOSTS TORTILLA SALES: 'NO LONGER AN ETHNIC BREAD'

DALLAS -- Domestic wholesale tortilla sales surpassed $4 billion last year, representing a growth rate of 57% over the last four years, according to a study conducted by Aspex Research for the Tortilla Industry Association here.Roger Burk, senior vice president at Mad Butcher, Pine Bluff, Ark., has seen tortilla sales in his stores double over the past year alone. While Burk attributes much of the

DALLAS -- Domestic wholesale tortilla sales surpassed $4 billion last year, representing a growth rate of 57% over the last four years, according to a study conducted by Aspex Research for the Tortilla Industry Association here.

Roger Burk, senior vice president at Mad Butcher, Pine Bluff, Ark., has seen tortilla sales in his stores double over the past year alone. While Burk attributes much of the segment's success to the growing Hispanic population, the versatility of the tortilla is becoming widely recognized outside of the Hispanic community.

"Tortillas are being used to make quick and easy desserts," Burk noted. "I've even seen them used to serve barbecue."

According to Irwin Steinberg, executive director of the TIA, the Hispanic consumer is responsible for less than half of the total number of tortillas sold in the United States.

"It is no longer an ethnic bread," he said.

Steinberg credits the spread of Mexican-style restaurants with introducing the tortilla to the mainstream consumer.

In an effort to encourage non-Hispanic consumers, the TIA frequently promotes recipes making use of tortillas outside of the Mexican context.

Steinberg recommends retailers place tortillas in-line with the other breads to increase awareness among non-Hispanic consumers.

"This gives people a choice between tortillas or English muffins, or rye bread or pumpernickel," he said.