Check out the ingredient list on most conventional corn tortillas for sale in the United States and you’ll find that, in addition to corn, shelf-stable tortillas often contain scary-sounding ingredients like propionic acid, benzoic acid, guar gum and more—not what you necessarily want to eat with cotija, guacamole and salsa.
Jorge Gaviria, founder of the newly launched tortilla company Masienda, recognized there was ample opportunity to help Americans understand that true tortillas are only supposed to contain three ingredients: corn, water and trace of lime. “Trace of lime” means the corn has undergone an ancient processing method called nixtamalization, or mineralization of the seed. The process is simple: soak and cook corn kernels in an alkaline solution, such as limewater, and it becomes more flavorful and nutritious.
Gaviria spent years working with smallholder farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico, to source heirloom corn for upscale Mexican restaurants seeking traditional flavor and recently, for a new line of retail-specific tortillas made using three different types of consciously sourced corn. Notably, Masienda was accepted into the 2018 Chobani Incubator, a no-strings-attached grant program that provides equity-free capital and mentorship for small, passionate brands.
We caught up with Gaviria and Masienda COO Ruby Ng at Expo West to learn more about their cool, back-to-basics brand.
What was your motivation to start Masienda?
Jorge Gaviria: Our mission is to elevate the everyday tortilla for the next generation of eaters. In order to do that we wanted to start first with the supply. Believe it or not, we started four years ago building the supply chain across 2,000 smallholder farmers in Mexico. They cover about 30,000 acres of regenerative agriculture.
When we got to that point we felt like we were ready to launch. We just launched six months ago our own tortilla line using that supply chain here in the U.S.
What’s so special about the type of corn that you use in your tortillas?
JG: The first thing is obviously the people who are connected to it. It’s creating a real impact in communities where it needs it the most.
But also there’s an attention to flavor that’s most important to the consumer. You have varieties in Mexico that don’t grow anywhere else in the world—and they taste better. We wanted to be able to translate that into a simple product where that main ingredient really shows.
We love how the product is available in three different flavors, which are tinted blue, white or red.
JG: Correct, there are no dyes at all.
Ruby Ng: And everything is freshly merchandised, so it gives you the perfect canvas for any type of meal.