"I decided Moundridge, where the company was founded, was where we needed to keep it.”
It has been 25 years since Tortilla King started making chips, and the business continues to see steady growth.
Founded by Robert Ratzlaff in 1992, Tortilla King was started in downtown Moundridge with six employees.
“We relocated from the old, small plant to this facility about 20 years ago,” said Juan Guardiola, president of Tortilla King.
With a bigger facility and more equipment, Tortilla King now employs around 100 people, turns out corn and flour tortillas and chips six days a week, and ships out four to six semi loads of products per day.
Keeping the business in Moundridge gives Tortilla King both highway access and community support.
“I had opportunities to move to Wichita a couple of times, or to move somewhere else, but I decided Moundridge, where the company was founded, was where we needed to keep it,” Guardiola said.
Tortilla King produces Li’L Guy, Miranda, Mama Lupe’s and La Comida brand products and also does private label work for other companies.
“Mama Lupe’s is in more than 2,000 stores in the Midwest,” Guardiola said. “With private labels, we go basically from Kansas to Chicago and northeast all the way to Pittsburgh.”
According to the Tortilla Industry Association, tortilla manufacturing is expected to surpass $10 billion in sales this year, stocking restaurant and grocery stores with tortillas and items made from tortillas such as chips, empanadas, burritos and enchiladas.
Guardiola credits the success of the company to the quality of its employees.
“We have some people here that have been here for a long time,” Guardiola said.
Another factor is the company’s dedication to producing the best possible product and sourcing ingredients locally.
“All of our main ingredients — flour, corn, oil, everything — are nearby. All the key food material that we need to produce our products are here in our backyard,” Guardiola said.
Even the bags in which the chips and tortillas are packaged come from a supplier in Kansas, Guardiola noted.
“There are not a lot of tortilla manufacturers who cook their own corn. We still cook our own corn — about 20,000 pounds per day,” Guardiola said.
Tortilla King has made it a priority to use the latest technology in its manufacturing equipment.
“We keep updating equipment for basically two reasons,” Guardiola said. “One is to improve the quality of the product, and the second is to become more cost-effective.”
The company spent close to $4 million dollars on a new production line three years ago.
“We used to pack by hand. Now everything is done by an automatic bagger, so the employee doesn’t have to do as much work,” Guardiola said. “The employee is raised to a different skill level where they are an equipment operator.”
The majority of the tortilla making process is mechanized and computerized, with any color or shape defects in a tortilla being spotted by sensors.
“If it finds a little hole or the tortilla is not the right size, it rejects it,” Guardiola said.
As a final quality check, all bags of flour tortillas are sent through a metal detector to make sure no foreign objects are in the package.
With the speed of its current machinery, Tortilla King produces 48,000 flour tortillas per hour.
“We continue evolving and updating. We are about to get a new corn tortilla line to replace a couple of the old corn tortilla lines,” Guardiola said. “We gain efficiency by reducing our energy costs and making the job easier for the employees.”
For more information about Tortilla King, visit https://www.tortillaking.com.