Tortillas have moved mainstream and the ethnic flatbread once considered an Hispanic specialty item now is often the substitute for traditional breads in today’s American diet, according to the Tortilla Industry Association (Tia).

Tortillas, and related by-products (tortilla chips, tostadas and taco shells) comprise the $6.1bn tortilla industry. According to recent findings of the TIA new market research study, The State of the Tortilla Industry: 2004, conducted by Aspex Research, small firms with annual revenue of less than $10m are a significant presence in the industry. The continued popularity of tortillas, fuelled in part by the infusion of new flavours such as jalapeno, tomato, spinach, salsa and cilantro, has contributed to the more than 8% industry growth annually for nearly a decade.

The study shows that total market sales to retailers and foodservice outlets (restaurants and schools) are about equal. While the South Central and West regions represent the industry’s largest markets, or 63% of the total US market, the Northeast region is narrowing the gap, representing 20% of the demand. According to survey results, 60% of all products sold are fresh products as opposed to frozen or refrigerated.

Consumption is on the rise among Hispanics and non-Hispanics and the industry projects 10% growth over the next few years.