Cargill targets low-fat, whole grain tortilla market

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Whole grain Wheat

Leading ingredients firm Cargill has developed a number of whole
grain, low fat tortilla prototypes in an effort to capture a slice
of the growing US market for the healthy bread alternative.

The products, which were introduced at the recent Tortilla Industry Association (TIA) show, were designed to address tortilla manufacturer's needs for functionality and flavor, said the firm.

"More and more Americans are making tortillas a regular part of their diets, and tortilla manufacturers are seeking new, efficient ways to offer consumers the attributes they demand, including flavor and nutrition"​ said Guy Shoemaker, Cargill bakery category leader.

The tortilla varieties presented by the firm included a whole grain product, a no trans fat product, and products made with traditional Mexican flavors.

Indeed, the growing Hispanic population is one of the primary drivers for the growth of this product category in the US. At the same time, demand for the product is also crossing beyond ethnicity and into a wider base of consumers with increasingly adventurous taste preferences.

According to the latest available market figures from TIA, the US tortilla market was valued at $6.1bn in 2004. Estimates for the market size in 2006 currently place it at around $6.5bn - $7bn.

The product's steady growth stems primarily from the fact that tortillas represent a growing snack sector for American consumers with little time, but who are now more nutrition-conscious than ever. The snack is regarded as a convenient and healthier alternative to bread thanks to its versatility and low fat content.

The Census Bureau estimates that tortilla sales in the United States, through all channels (food service, institutional and supermarkets) are increasing at 17 percent per year, making it the fastest-growing segment within the baking and snack industries.

Tortillas are traditionally made from cornmeal or wheat flour and form a stable of Latin American diets, which are becoming increasingly popular throughout The US and Europe. Corn tortillas are growing more rapidly than flour tortillas, although flour remains the leading type of tortilla in North America.

"Tortilla products are seeing significant growth in an otherwise mature bakery market. We feel this is an opportunity for our customers and we want to provide any solution we can for them in this segment,"​ said Cargill associate marketing manager Kyle Marinkovich.

"We feel our ingredient and technical capabilities align well with this segment,"​ he told

The firm used its WheatSelect white whole wheat flour to make a product that claims to integrate traditional taste and texture with whole grains, as well as a good processing performance. This allows for the look, taste and mouthfeel that consumers expect, while delivering the benefits of whole grains, said Cargill.

Another prototype in the firm's line was made with its Tortifina shortening, which claims to allow for the elimination of trans fats from the formulation.

"Many flour tortilla manufacturers that don't use traditional lard are looking for solutions to replace their current fat systems (typically 30 to 35 percent trans fat), while maintaining the functional benefit of anti-sticking properties when packaged,"​ said the firm.

"By collaborating with customers and performing experiments with various fat system blends and ratios, Cargill developed a tortilla with zero grams trans fat that did not sacrifice anti-sticking properties - no matter what size or color of tortilla was desired,"​ it added.

Another demonstration product developed by the ingredients firm was made with its Maizewise corn bran, which claims to make it easy for tortilla manufacturers to add fiber and whole grains while having minimal impact on flavor, texture, color and processing characteristics.

The firm also developed tortilla varieties with Mexican-inspired flavors, such as jalapeno, chorizo, chipotle and cilantro.

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