Mexican food giant enters Europe

One of the world’s biggest manufacturers of Mexican foods is launching its brand into Europe to rival United Biscuits’ Phileas Fogg and Pillsbury’s Old El Paso tortilla chip ranges.

Mission Foods, part of the $1.5bn (£937.5m) Mexican company Grupo Maseca, is spending £16m building a factory in Coventry to make branded and own-label flour tortillas and tortilla chips for the UK and European market.

It is working on a marketing campaign with a £2m to £5m advertising budget for its branded goods with Devon agency Bray Leino.

The company plans to secure 25 per cent of European flour tortilla sales by 2005 with ambitions to make the tortilla a mass-market, everyday product. One possible area of growth is to persuade consumers to eat more tortilla wraps rather than sandwiches.

Mission Foods’ sales in the US top £400m. The company aims to take a share of UK sales of tortilla chips, which make up 30 per cent of the £40bn salty snack market in the US but account for only 3.5 per cent of a £2.5bn market in the UK.

Nick Houghton, managing director of Mission Foods Europe, says: “We will build a successful business if we develop the market. It is not enough just to steal rivals’ share.

“In the UK, Mexican represents 12 per cent of the total ethnic food market, with a value of £90m.

“Sales have grown by 50 per cent in the past five years and it is predicted that by 2005 the Mexican market will be worth £150m.”

Houghton is one of a number of recent recruits to Mission Foods’ European management team, including sales and marketing director Neil Greig. Both Houghton and Greig worked at subsidiary companies of food producer Albert Fisher.

A total of 200 jobs will be created when production starts next spring at the new factory, which will be the company’s first outside the US and Central America. The site, which was chosen over alternatives in other European countries after 18 months’ deliberation, is the largest manufacturing investment from Mexico in the UK.

Mission Foods, founded in 1949, has headquarters in Mexico City and in Dallas, Texas.

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