Sky's the Limit
It makes sense that a company headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M., would have lofty aspirations. Not only is the southwestern city host to an annual hot air balloon festival, but it’s also an area well-known for its hang- and paragliding. In fact, taking to the sky seems to be somewhat of a local past time.
Appropriately, Albuquerque Tortilla Co. Inc. executives know a thing or two about soaring.
“We’ve always exceeded our goals,” says Chris Martinez, vice president of sales and marketing. “Because we have a good customer base and we work hard at it. We try to offer the highest quality products for a reasonable price. Our goals are just to keep feeding our customers and to go out and find new ones that want a good quality product.”
Today, these products include more than 48 SKUs of Hispanic foods including frozen tamales, taquitos, burritos and enchiladas, as well as shelf-stable tortillas, spices and salsas for both foodservice and retail. Further, the company expects to rake in $24 million in sales this year - 35 percent of which will come from prepared foods alone.
Pretty impressive for a company that started in 1987 as a local storefront bakery operation. Back then Albuquerque Tortilla President Luther Martinez (Chris’ father) was a New Mexico green chile distributor and began to notice his customers couldn’t find a high-quality tortilla to accompany the local delicacy.
“That’s how he got into the business,” says Chris, who works alongside his father as well as his uncle, Pete Martinez, vice president of operations. “There wasn’t really a good machine-made tortilla out there.”
Luther had discovered a niche and the company soon blossomed. From the beginning, Albuquerque executives pledged to use only high-quality ingredients and little or no preservatives - a commitment that proved popular with customers.
By 1990, Albuquerque had outgrown its 7,000-sqaure-foot storefront location and moved into a larger production facility - a situation that the company would often repeat.
Chris explains, “Anytime we’ve ever built a plant or moved into a plant, it’s always seemed to be that the family would say, ‘We’ve got plenty of room and this is our last move.’ And 12 months later we’re expanding or moving.”
That is, company executives hope, until now. At the end of 2007, Albuquerque built an 85,000-square-foot plant for value-added foods. The $14 million operation is attached to the company’s 104,000-square-foot headquarters and tortilla bakery in Albuquerque. (For more on Albuquerque’s new plant, see plant story, page 14)
The new plant’s start-up couldn’t have come at a better time. Additional space allowed the company to expand value-added offerings with a burrito line. Introduced this past September, the 10-item line includes breakfast varieties (Egg, Sausage, Potato & Cheese with red or green chile) and traditional varieties (Ground Beef, Bean, Potato & Cheese with red or green chile).
Executives believe these meals and other value-added offerings will build the company’s future.
“Logistics have become a very important part of successful distribution. This is why we are adding value-added items to our lines,” Pete says. “For every case of frozen value-added items sold you must sell four to five cases of flour or corn tortillas.”
With this in mind, Chris adds, the company plans to capitalize on the growing consumer demand for Hispanic foods - and convenience - by rolling out additional value-added products.
Executives also plan to expand geographically. The majority of Albequerque’s business is in the Southwest and West Coast.
“We plan to be able to offer these products to every consumer in the U.S., but in order to be able to do that we must be astute to different markets and develop products to specific regions,” Chris adds.
The company also actively is seeking a dietitian to add to the staff to help launch a more health focused product line.
Customer feedback always is a factor in deciding what initiative to take on next and Albuquerque has a built in way to garner feedback immediately after consumer consumption. Albuquerque operates a small on-site restaurant that serves food fresh off its processing lines.
“It’s a great proving ground for new products,?” Chris says. “We invite our customers to be frank and honest with us.”
With these systems in place and the Hispanic foods market continuing to gain in popularity with mainstream America, Albuquerque executives feel that the company is poised for even more growth.
By 2010, the company hopes to surpass $50 million in sales. And, here, Chris admits that this might sound like a big dream. But his confidence in the family business shines through.
“With the product and the packaging we’re coming out with and our relationships with retailers and the broad line foodservice distributors, we’re going to get where we want to be,” he concludes.
Photos by Vito Palmisano
Fast FactsAlbuquerque Tortilla Co. Inc.
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Top executive(s): Luther Martinez, president; Chris Martinez, vice president sales and marketing; Pete Martinez, vice president of operations
Annual sales: Approximately $24 million
Primary products: Frozen burritos, enchiladas, tamales, chile stew and taquitos
Brands: Albuquerque Tortilla Co.
Channels served: Retail and foodservice
Distribution: Southwest, West Coast and some Northeastern states
On the Web: www.albuquerque-tortilla.com