Whether flour, corn, or cut up and baked to create nacho chips, tortillas are the backbone of traditional Mexican cuisine. Originating from the Hispanic community, they have since grown massively in popularity across the globe. In fact, the global tortilla market is currently valued at $43 billion, but is expected to reach $65 billion by 2028.
Mexico remains the world’s largest producer of tortillas, accounting for 42 percent of global production, closely followed by the US, which manufactures 36 percent. One business contributing to this figure is Easy Foods Inc (Easy Foods), which produces authentic, premium flour tortillas, corn tortillas, and tortilla chips.
Although the business aims to provide products that are easy to use, cook, and eat, the story behind Easy Foods is far from straight-forward. Having navigated a journey of business transformation, William Isaias, President and CEO, joins us to discuss the company’s story, as well as its new products.
“The original concept we started with in 2005 was a brand, so we spent three years purchasing tortillas from other big names in the tortilla market,” William begins. “However, we kept getting numerous complaints: the shape was incorrect, the size was inconsistent, and the tortillas stuck together easily.
“So, as I learned more about the internal workings of the company, I knew that we needed to manufacture our own product, with a huge emphasis on quality. We went ahead and invested heavily in technology, such as weight management tools, metal detectors, vision systems – everything on the quality side.”
High quality products
The business opened its first manufacturing facility in 2008, which was 26,000 square feet with a single flour line and one corn line. William recalls: “I remember when we started, we had such a small team of people that we had to run the flour line one day, and the corn line the next.
“Then, in 2010, Juan Pablo Viejo joined us, and I always say that between him and I, we have learnt the tortilla manufacturing process from scratch,” he continues. “I am originally from Ecuador, so I’m not a tortilla consumer by history. However, being from Guatemala, Juan had more experience of tortillas growing up, but still had a lot to learn about the manufacturing side. Ten years later, he is our Chief Operating Officer, now highly skilled across the business and often found working hard on the production floor.”
In 2012, the company began renting additional space from its neighboring warehouse, increasing its total production space to just below 50,000 square feet. “We then had four production lines (two for flour and two for corn), but we quickly outgrew this site too,” William elaborates.
“We opened our current 100,000-square-foot facility in Kissimmee, Florida, in 2018, and have grown into it gradually; we have eight production lines functioning at the moment and a further two being installed. We have filled the warehouse space much quicker than we anticipated and we are now almost at full capacity after just five years!”
Despite numerous moves to larger facilities, one thing has remained the same at Easy Foods; its uber focus on high quality products. “We know that we’re not the cheapest product in the industry, but we’ve learned over the years that even though we are a little more expensive than other brands, if we do it right, people stick with us because we consistently produce high quality products,” William explains.
“Our consistency has been crucial to our long-term success. We maintain strict policies on quality procedures; we don’t cut corners on the equipment we buy, on the people we employ, or on the raw materials we use. I feel passionately that we shouldn’t change ingredients just to lower our costs, especially if it impacts quality. We rarely switch materials or processes anyway, but if it is necessary, we are transparent with our customers and openly communicate the relevant change.”
The go-to tortilla guy
With strict procedures in place to ensure high quality produce, it is not surprising that Easy Foods has multiple long-standing and valued relationships with customers. “I am passionate about doing what is right, in both the business and personal side of life,” William states. “If we make a mistake, we deal with it every single time to make sure it is addressed in the most efficient way possible.
“I don’t think we’ve ever ran into an issue that has adversely impacted our relationship with customers, and it’s been rewarding to watch many of our customers grow from a one restaurant operation to a multi-unit chain.”
As a strictly food service business, Easy Foods took a leap of faith in 2019 and decided to launch in a whole new market – retail. “While both our retail lines were approved for launch, unfortunately as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the launch was postponed,” William details. “After the craziness of the pandemic subsided, we decided to promote the retail lines again and were thrilled that both our Tacomex and Vedgee brands were reapproved,” he reveals. “It’s a completely new experience for us, so we will see how it goes, but it’s looking promising so far, with some big distributors taking on our products.”
The Tacomex brand mirrors the exact products supplied to food services, whereas Vedgee incorporates different flavored wraps, such as spinach and garlic, roasted red pepper and rosemary, and cucumber and dill. All of which are seasoned with real vegetables and herbs, use extra virgin olive oil instead of palm oil, and are free from artificial colors and flavors.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve had opportunities to work with bigger customers and more prominent names in the industry, which has opened a lot of different doors for us. There’s a funny story that happened recently actually; I got a call last week from a chef doing an event for a celebrity, so I answered the call and she said, ‘I hear you are the person to talk to about tortillas!’ I laughed in both amusement and happiness that somehow, this chef had ended up with my phone number for emergency help with a tortilla query.
“What more can I ask for from the future, other than to deepen my reputation as the go-to tortilla guy in the US?” he laughs. “In terms of growth, we will start exploring the possibility of a second manufacturing facility, so that we can continue growing at a strong rate. We’re also really excited about our retail line and will monitor its progress over the coming months, with a vision to expand this arm of the business. But overall,” he concludes. “I’m happy with where the business is at.”