Beyond Bread: How Tortillas Turn Advanced Techniques Into Bakery Market Dominance

By Mike Terry

“Better than sliced bread.”

It’s a phrase we reserve only for the best things in life – long weekends, the Internet, online shopping, and streaming video services. However, “better than sliced bread” takes on a different shape in the modern bakery market.

That shape is round and flat – the shape of the tortilla.

There is no question that tortillas are continuing to outpace the market for the common loaf, with tortillas showing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.54% to a global valuation $57.7 billion from 2023-2032 (compared to Bread’s 3.66%).

Looking closer, it’s easy to see why. Healthier, less filling, and lacking problem moisture and oxygen for transport, tortillas offer optimal stability, durability, and versatility when making more dynamic meals – serving as the ideal vessel for ingredients simple breads can’t handle.

With tortillas popularity exploding, more than 80,000 Mexican restaurants across the U.S., and almost the same number of food trucks and menus sporting tortilla-based items, one question rings loudest in producers’ minds:

“How do I harness the momentum of this rising bakery star and get my products to consumers in new markets for maximum profitability?”


Understanding key principles concerning your products and customers is essential to capitalizing on new, growing demand.

Who are your target demographics? Where are they shopping? What is their intent? What type of packaging do they need to meet their customers’ requirements?

Fortunately, in the world of tortilla production, there exists a simple trinity of buyers to which you can adjust your tortilla packaging and products for the best return on investment (ROI):


Food service customers buy their tortillas in bulk, 30-50 tortillas to a pack, requiring little to no barrier films, marketing, reseal features, or shelf life. Their chosen tortillas are frozen, thawed, then used en masse in food prep trusting they have the same softness, flexibility, and consistency for single use.


Large retailers and club stores – think Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s – provide tortillas to restaurants, food service customers, and retail consumers creating restaurant–style meals at home. Because their demographics are more diverse, they opt for tortilla packs (30 tortillas per pack, max) with integrated recloseable features for multiple uses, distributed by pallet under the frozen to fresh lifecycle.


The most diverse of the tortilla industry’s customer base, grocery chains, and their shoppers seek out products with the longest shelf lives, size ranges (6-10-inch diameters), and the most dynamic marketing elements – resealable zipper or adhesive tape, Smart packaging, and printed films – to stay competitive. These customers must offer both single and multi-use packaging to accommodate strict buying criteria and customer intent.


Now that you can identify your ideal customer, what is their intent – how are their tortillas being used daily?

Producers with local food service customers buying in bulk have little need for capital investment to improve packaging or product or expand their market.

For others looking to grow, there is one CRITICAL element in tortilla packaging which MUST be satisfied for successful market expansion: shelf life.

Tortillas are packaged, frozen, thawed, and then slacked before they hit store shelves. Though they have a longer than average shelf life of 3-4 weeks, to customers, freshness matters. Without dedicated bakers in grocery stores (reduced labor costs), producers must improve quality, deliver “never frozen” product, simultaneously cut production costs, and expand.

These goals do sit comfortably on the shoulders of shelf life, but what are the best steps to achieve the necessary extended longevity and expand operations coast to coast? According to packaging experts, there are TWO essential elements which emerge as the keys to success which can be integrated individually as part of a long-term cadence or simultaneously for maximum effect:

Tortilla Packaging with Barrier Films

Modern flow wrap packaging integrates sophisticated barrier films such as polypropylene (BoPP) and modern polyethylene (with improved seals) to extend total shelf life up to 8 WEEKS without freezing or thawing. Combined with resealable features, such as zippers and adhesive tape, packaging made with barrier films stands as a formidable defense against spoilage and product waste.

Tortilla Packaging with Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

MAP seals precise blend of oxygen and CO2 inside barrier filmed tortilla packaging, preventing oxygenation and product spoilage, and increasing shelf life to up to 12 WEEKS. As part of MAP integration, you can also add an oxygen scavenger to your packaging interior, achieving 9 MONTHS or more (depending on tortilla formulation) of shelf life without freezing, thawing, or slacking.


Tortilla packagers perceive investment in barrier films, MAP, and oxygen scavengers as a costly prospect. Adding these features to extend shelf life can cost up to $.30 per package or more, and overhauling your packaging equipment requires hundreds of thousands of dollars in production and material investment.

However, compare these numbers to the annual cost of bread and bakery product waste in the U.S. ($2.62 million on avg.), the cost of freezer freight transport (up to $3,000 – $7000 per trip), and monthly refrigerated storage (up to $19.81 per pallet per month) and expenses skyrocket to the millions for shipping, storage, and expansion – WITHOUT the valuable ROI of future-proof tortilla packaging solutions for your production.


Sustainable tortilla packaging success belongs to producers who are willing to stand out. As tortillas continue to supplant Bread at the table, and innovative artisanal tortillas take the sector by storm, producers who invest more to offer fresh, expertly packaged product are going to secure the advantage (and expanded market share) over producers who are frozen in the outdated packaging, shipping, and storage methods of the past.

Talk to our packaging experts at Harpak-ULMA today. As your trusted tortilla packaging partner, we provide the expertise and solutions you need to benefit from these titanic tortilla industry trends and optimize your packaging and production, so they never fall flat.

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