From Resilience to Success: La Jolla Tortilleria’s Story

We spoke to the CEO of La Jolla Tortilleria, Daniel Torres about his family’s and company’s inspiring story.  Imagine fleeing civil war in El Salvador, arriving in the United States with nothing but hope and determination. At just 11 years old, when his father and uncle brought him the company’s new location and declared, “This will be our new business.” This is the remarkable journey that shaped La Jolla Tortilleria, a thriving manufacturer of tortillas and chips, built on resilience, tradition, and a commitment to excellence. 

OU Kosher: Daniel, could you share with us a brief overview of La Jolla, your role, and a bit about your family history? 

Daniel Torres: Yeah. Let’s start from the beginning. My dad and uncle immigrated to the United States and began working for a tortilla company here in Los Angeles, which was a large employer, called El Dorado. Strangely, they were both fired from their jobs on the same day; my uncle during the morning and my dad at the end of the day, about five hours apart. Not long after that they brought me to this plaza, a shopping center, where they showed me what would become their new factory and our new business. At that time, I was 11 years old. 

My dad and uncle fled the civil war in El Salvador. They were young and inexperienced in working in a factory, having grown up on farms. But they quickly adapted to tortilla making and climbed up the ranks in the company. They managed the company at an operational level until a family dispute within the company led to their being let go. 

The company they were working for, which had owners from Central or South America, went bankrupt around 2012.  

My father and uncle worked 24-7 worked tirelessly to grow our company. I would attend high school and then work here, sometimes even before school in my senior year. This continued when I started college, leading to a constant back and forth. Eventually, realizing that my dad and uncle lacked the formal education necessary for the financial aspects of running a business, I decided to leave school to support La Jolla full-time. I took on the CEO role, and in the past six years, we’ve managed to grow our company’s revenue significantly. 

OU Kosher: Could you discuss your current market, how it has evolved, and your expansion plans? 

Daniel Torres: Absolutely. Over the past months, our business has has gone through a lot of changes, particularly with starting OU Kosher certification process. We’re expanding physically, with new buildings being constructed here in Los Angeles. Our customer base is now global, with clients in cities like Rome and Australia, and we’re even establishing new relationships in Taiwan. 

The kosher-certification is a strategic move to expand our brand’s appeal worldwide, acknowledging the value that such a certification carries. Traditionally, our focus has been on food service and co-packing, which is still a large portion of our business. However, we are actively diversifying to enter retail markets and e-commerce platforms, including Amazon, to increase our brand visibility. 

We’re revamping our brand as part of this strategy, making sure to adapt to new market trends and customer demands. For instance, we cater to a variety of clients, including food manufacturers and restaurants. A significant customer of ours, a rapidly expanding American company specializing in burritos and tacos, values our kosher certification as they grow into a nationally recognized brand. 

OU Kosher: Was your kosher certification a significant factor for your clients, particularly the American company expanding across states? 

Daniel Torres: Yes, it has been a crucial factor. This company, as they expand nationally, is very selective with their suppliers, and our kosher certification is something they value highly. It aligns with their vision and quality standards, which is why they chose us as a partner. We pride ourselves on our growth and the ability to grow alongside our customers. Our flexibility in customizing formulations to meet specific client needs has been a key to our success and expansion. 

As for our biggest client, it’s currently a distributor that specializes in supplying to a wide network of restaurants, which greatly simplifies our distribution process. This distributor also services Wingstop which has over 2000 locations worldwide and is one of their prominent clients, although Wingstop is not directly purchasing from us. This connection, however, shows the scale and reach of our distribution network. 

OU Kosher: Daniel, please share with us why you chose OU certification for La Jolla. 

Daniel Torres: I went with OU Kosher certification because of its appeal and reputation, especially when considering the cost-effectiveness and the process involved. I was familiar with a tortilla factory that also used OU Kosher certification, which is well-trusted. It’s noticeable and recognized, used by other prominent brands that are OU kosher certified. Seeing this, I decided to pursue OU certification for our company. 

OU Kosher: Can you describe the process you went through to get the certification? Were many changes required? 

Daniel Torres: We didn’t have to make many changes because our operations were naturally in line with kosher standards. We already had GMP certification and were pursuing SQF certification, which involves segregation, documentation, and well-managed processes. So, compared to three years ago when we were less organized, the transition to being kosher certified was straightforward because of our improved organization. 

OU Kosher: Do you do product development, and what importance do food label claims like ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ hold for you? 

Daniel Torres: Yes, we are actively involved in product development. We’re now creating a new spicy chip for our customers and developing organic spinach tortillas and chips. These food label claims, like organic and sustainability, are very important to us. Some of these products we’re developing are under our own brand, and others that we produce for clients like Erewhon, who want organic certification. Our goal is to build trust with the public by making products that have kosher, organic, and non-GMO certifications. 

OU Kosher: Are you focusing on growing your own brand alongside private label production? Where are your brands available? 

Daniel Torres: Correct, we are looking to expand our brand presence. While we’re doing that, we’re also handling private label production. Currently, our products are sold directly online, and we haven’t entered the retail market yet, but we plan to do so by the end of the year. 

OU Kosher: How are you finding customers for your online sales? 

Daniel Torres: Most of our customer acquisition has been through word of mouth. We branded our boxes years ago, which has given us a significant presence in Los Angeles, especially among street vendors. Consumers see our boxes, get our information, and often come to our facility to purchase in bulk. Besides our physical presence, my brother and I regularly visit restaurants, and our online strategy attracts prospective b2b customers who give us opportunities to bid for contracts. 

We also continue to knock on doors to find new customers, and we’ve noticed that email marketing is effective as well. I’m quite passionate about personally connecting with people and engaging in conversations with them. 

OU Kosher: Regarding product development, how do you do your R&D? Is it all done in-house? 

Daniel Torres: Everything is done in-house. We have a laboratory where we do nutritional labelling and analysis to improve our products. Although it involves a lot of chemistry, we manage all our research and development within the company. 

OU Kosher: How many employees do you have now, and across how many facilities? 

Daniel Torres: We have around 80 employees spread across three facilities near Los Angeles, each about ten minutes apart from the others. These facilities each play different roles, one with corn, another with flour. But with our ongoing expansion, we’re put our operations under one roof. 

OU Kosher: How does your co-packing business finds you? 

Daniel Torres: Our co-packing business primarily comes from word of mouth within the industry. For instance, a chef from Sofi Stadium discovered our chips at a cantina and reached out to us for a partnership. While the stadium business is seasonal and not high volume, it’s an excellent opportunity to expose our brand. 

OU Kosher: It sounds like you’re also working on increasing brand awareness? 

Daniel Torres: We’re redoing our packaging to include the OU Kosher symbol, among other branding elements, to enhance brand visibility. Again, it’s part of building trust.  

OU Kosher: Can you tell us what the main message you want to convey to copackers, and people interested in your products? 

Daniel Torres: The most important thing I want them to know is our dedication to meeting our clients’ specific needs with customized product formulations. We take pride in using authentic, real corn. Our corn comes from Utah, and unlike many in the industry, we still adhere to the traditional methods of cooking whole kernel corn, which is more labor-intensive but results in a product we’re proud of. We avoid using just corn flour and water, which is common in our business. This commitment to quality, is an important factor in what sets us apart. 

OU Kosher: What’s the difference between your whole kernel corn products and those made from corn flour? 

Daniel Torres: We have a range of formulations that cater to our customers’ preferences. Some choose 100% corn flour for its smoother, finer texture or a specific blend, like 50/50 or 80/20, depending on their needs. For those who prefer 100% corn, we provide that too, which has a more granular texture. Our blue chips are made from blue corn, and we even offer organic blue corn options. We’re committed to giving our customers exactly what they want. 

OU Kosher: Finally, what would you say to kosher consumers about trying La Jolla’s products? 

Daniel Torres: To our kosher consumers, I would say give our products a chance at your table. We’re committed to making great kosher products without compromising on quality or authenticity. Our traditional methods ensure that when you choose La Jolla, you’re choosing a product that’s not only kosher but also crafted with care and tradition in mind. 


OU Kosher: Thanks Daniel for your time and we’re looking forward to tasting your chips!