Breaking into big box stores is never easy, but trying to do it during the pandemic has been borderline impossible. And yet, that’s how Mr. Tortilla’s growth story began.
After prior unsuccessful attempts to place their low-carb tortillas in supermarkets, Mr. Tortilla’s founders (and also brothers) Anthony and Ronald Alcazar thought the shortage of products during the pandemic would be the “in” they needed. Rather than hopefully pitching retailers and landing on the barren store shelves, however, Anthony said they were met with skepticism and hand-ringing. Buyers just wouldn’t bite.
“We thought hey, you know what, this would be a great, there’s need, there’s empty shelves, right?” said Anthony, who noted that the company’s finances at this point were indeed grim. “We never thought they would say no.”
So like many businesses during the pandemic, Mr. Tortilla pivoted. The brothers began selling tortillas on the internet–a still uncommon mode of purchase for the industry. “We learned digital marketing and social media on the fly and we grew 3,000 percent to become number one on Amazon,” added Anthony, who last week served as a panelist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Summit of the Americas event.
Here’s how Anthony said he and his brother managed to take their company from imminent closure to the maker of the number one selling tortilla on Amazon in both the U.S. and Canada.
For years, Mr. Tortilla tried to place its products on store shelves but ultimately could not compete with “the big guys” for shelf space. The times they could gain deals for in-store sales, Mr. Tortilla products ended up on the bottom shelves. The company gained income by striking distributor partnerships with the military, selling to restaurant owners, and always finding another way.
The closure of many restaurants during the pandemic sent another shockwave through the company, forcing the Alcazar brothers to revise their strategy yet again. This time, Mr. Tortilla entered the e-commerce market, providing direct to consumer sales on the company’s website and on Amazon.
Believe you can do it
Mr. Tortilla began selling on Amazon as a last-ditch effort, but it was totally worth it. “On Amazon, the consumer chooses who’s number one,” not multinational corporations with top shelf space, added Anthony. His business grew by 3,000 percent since it became selling partners with Amazon and created its own Mr. Tortilla store on the site.
While the pandemic proved awful timing for making inroads into supermarkets, it seems it was a great time to deliver comfort food to people’s doors. Today, Mr. Tortilla is thriving–and even inking expansion plans. The company said it has store distribution in New York and California, and it’s looking to begin distribution in Florida, Texas, and Illinois soon.