Today’s Interesting Commercial Discovery

I went to go make myself a cheese quesadillia today because cheese+tortilla+1 minute in the microwave = GAAAAHCHEEZYGOODNESS, and I noticed that we have two bags of tortillas in the refrigerator, but one is labeled “Original Wraps,” and the other is “Large Flour Tortillas.” The tortillas inside both are exactly the same — same size, same calorie count, etc — but I also happen to notice that the “wraps” package is a six count package, while the “flour tortilla” package is an eight count package.

So then I went upstairs to my computer (taking my cheese quesadilla with me, because research is hungry work), to check to see what the pricing was on both packages. On the 6-count package of Mission Wraps is $3.85, while the 8-count package of Mission Large Flour Tortillas is $3.59. The individual product — the flat, thin object made of flour — is exactly the same, but apparently if you call it a wrap, you can charge more, and offer fewer per package — than you can if you call it a tortilla.

Please note here that my methodology here is highly anecdotal — I have checked but one online retailer and but one brand of wrap/tortilla. That said, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to discover that in a general sense “wraps” come in packages with fewer units in them, and that on a per unit basis they are significantly more expensive than when the same objects are called “tortillas.”

Why “wraps” might be more expensive than “tortillas” despite in fact being the same damn thing is an exercise I leave to the reader. I’d personally like to believe it’s something other than a food manufacturer and/or retailer catering to the latent insecurities of white people when presented with an ethnic food object as exotic as a tortilla. Whatever the reason, as a consumer tip, may I suggest that the next time you plan to make a wrap of some sort, that you head for the tortillas. You might save yourself a little cash.

104 Comments on “Today’s Interesting Commercial Discovery”

  1. I wonder if this happens with other food items. Can’t really think of anything that’s marketed with two different names, though. I wonder if it’s lunch time?

  2. Wow. This is rich. In the comical sense, I mean.

    I might also posit the following theory as well: that the word “wrap” caters to the post-Atkins, gotta-watch-my-carbs healthy-food enthusiast who has been lead to believe (whether rightly or wrongly I don’t know) that a “wrap” is a healthier option than a “sandwich” – and that in actuality it is in comparison to the sandwich that manufacturers find the ability to charge more for less – because, hey, you associate something with “healthiness” and you get to charge more for it, because wealthy yuppies will gladly pay more for “healthiness”. For the tortilla makers: “Hey. We make things that you wrap other food-things in. Let’s charge more for that.”

  3. I’m not at all surprised, although I think the price differential has less to do with exploiting “fear of tortilla” than it does “wrap has snob appeal.”

    I was given an electric quesadilla maker for Christmas, It works well, but I didn’t know I needed one.

  4. No joke, my mother always boiled any pasta with an Italian name, including spaghetti, an extra five minutes over what she would do for anything called noodles. Just to be safe from those “foreign food” cooties.

  5. Related: In the local newspaper a couple of days ago, I noticed a big ol’ advertisement for Land O’ Frost Wrap Kits and Sub Kits, which evidently contain X number of torti, oops, wraps or sub rolls and a matching number of meat slices and cheese slices.

    I don’t know whether the kits include step-by-step directions.

    I have zero doubt whatsoever that these are significantly more expensive than buying the ingredients separately.

  6. Yeah, I’ve noticed this sort of thing in the past, particularly when applied to “low-carb” foods, and am vigilant. Just remember, companies are not obligated to give you the best value for your money! Check the prices — per package AND per ounce/count.

  7. It happens with bouillon cubes too – I buy the 6 pack of “Caldo de Pollo” for a $1.19, instead of the 8 pack of “Chicken Bouillon” for $2.69. Same store, same brand.

  8. I buy my tortillas at the local taqueria (10 for $1), but that’s because I have a local taqueria. San Francisco is an expensive place to live, yes, but there are excellent deals to be found.

    I associate “wraps” with burrito-shaped entities with ingredients like mashed potato(e)s in them. Which is fine, but definitely a corn-fed white people thing*.

    * For the record, you don’t get much more gringo than me. No soul whatsoever, born about an hour from John’s home, I found Arrested Development hilarious, etc.

  9. Jamie:

    I’ve always thought that “wraps” were just non-Hispanic white people discovering that everything tastes better wrapped in a tortilla. One of the nice things about growing up in California was that we all were hip to that fact long ago.

  10. Check out the pregnancy test kits. The ones with a smiling baby on the face are more expensive than the ones without a smiling baby. People who want positive test results are willing to pay more than people who want negative test results.

  11. Have you checked the diameter? Maybe it’s just the picture but it looks like the wraps are slightly smaller.

  12. My wife and I bought tooth brushes last night. The 2 pack was on sale for $6.99. Individually, they were on sale for $3.19. These were on the shelf right next to each other with bold print showing the sale prices. We did not buy the pack.

  13. Saphia:

    The nutrition information on the back of each package is identical. One does allow for individual variances in size from tortilla to tortilla.

  14. My guess is that people who go into the store looking for “wraps” have a price point in mind roughly on par with the overpriced wraps they get in restaurants, whereas the people who go to the store looking for “tortillas” have a much better sense of what a flour-and-water disk ought to cost, and are more likely to scoff and make their own.

  15. @Beowulf (and in general); at least here in NH, it seems that the branch of marketers responsible for shelf placement and pricing are at “war” with consumers. I do most of the shopping for our household and I have to be vigilant; “sale” price on in-store brands often work out to be costlier than regular price for brand names; quantity “discounts” are costlier than the same quantity purchased in smaller counts, labeling is deliberately misleading and placement is deliberately misleading. AND they swap it around on a weekly basis, so that, for example, this week, three rolls of store brand paper towel purchased individually ARE more expensive than purchasing the three-pak, but next week, the three pak will be more expensive than three individual rolls.
    Fortunately, I “do the math” on everything (including calculating the cost of paper towel based on sheets/square footage), otherwise I would end up paying far more than I ought to. I consider this to be fraudulent behavior and it ought to be illegal.

  16. It gets even worse with computer equipment. Back when I worked (tangentially) for HP we had more than on printer model where all the hardware was present but certain features, such as duplexing, wouldn’t work unless you had the right firmware. Firmware that could be flashed. Imagine HP’s surprise when someone figured out they could flash a printer with the firmware for a more expensive model and get all the features enabled.

    The price difference between models was about $200 if I remember correctly. (It’s been a few years, thankfully)

  17. Between “gourmet food” variations and all the packages shrinking a bit, soap getting hollowed out a bit, cheaper brands dissapearing from stores in some cases, one might almost think there was a recession on and manufacturers are trying to scrimp and pry a few more percent out of us by tomfoolery or something…


    (Californian, and I scoff at those who must Wrap and don’t Tortilla. I buy 30-packs of Tortillas.)

  18. Tangetial note: I find that quesadillas made in my George Foreman Grill come out slightly crispy, which I prefer to their microwaved kin. Which way I make them depends on whether I can stand to delay my cheese craving and wait for the grill to warm up.

  19. I’d personally like to believe it’s something other than a food manufacturer and/or retailer catering to the latent insecurities of white people when presented with an ethnic food object as exotic as a tortilla.

    Unfortunately, it’s most likely so. One thing I learned from living in Georgia for 12 years is never to discount food insecurities, especially among white people. Every grocery store I ever went into there had an Ethnic food isle, which was a foodie ghetto for anything Hispanic, Asian or Kosher.

    I’ve noticed that the grocery stores here in Oregon have Hispanic food isles, with a lot more variety, probably because we have such a large number of Hispanic communities and they request specific items. Still segregated though.

    And when we go to visit my wife’s family in Texas, the entire grocery store is full of Hispanic food and so they don’t bother with an ethnic isle, though some places have an Oriental food isle instead.

    All anecdotal, of course, but my with this much correlation, my sociological magic 8-ball is telling me all signs point to yes.

  20. I was looking for some no frills shampoo at a big box store. One brand was offered in regular and family sized bottles. The family size cost about twice as much while only having about 50% more shampoo. I don’t know if this was a pricing mistake on the part of the store or just preying on our preconceived notion that anything “family sized” is a better deal.

  21. Are the folks buying 30-packs and 90-packs of tortillas getting the regular size or the burrito / wrap size?

    No doubt they are still a better deal, but usually the biggest packages I see are for the smaller size.

  22. Mars inc. has changed the packaging of there fun size candy bars from 8 to 6 and the unit price has gone up.

  23. I read this, and I’m left thinking…John Scalzi as Andy Rooney? On the Interwebs? It could work.

  24. A) quesadillas taste so much better griddled vs microwaved

    B) John should tell us what salsa he uses, and then there will be a Salsa War. (Trader Joe’s Salsa Authentica FTW!)

  25. This reminds me of a story: years ago (when she was still alive and kicking that is) my mother worked in a local grocery store. The owner of the store decided to do a “just for the heck of it” experiment one weekend.

    He took the egg cartons he had and seperated them into two groups, same eggs same cartons. The first group he priced at 33 cents per dozen, and the other was marked at 3 dz for $1. Would anyone care to take wagers which stack sold out first?

  26. John,

    We noticed this awhile ago when “wraps” as individually packaged items hit the storeshelves. In our case we got lucky because a short time later, after the locals quickly gleaned to the “less stuff more price” schtick, they ended up on the clearance rack for half the price of the tortilla’s :-)

    Last time I ever bought a “Warp” at the store.

    All the best,

  27. It is true that anything wrapped in a tortilla is better. Including tortillas.

    Tortillas all the way down, as it were.

  28. This reminded me of Rory Sutherland’s TED talk about “Shreddies” – square-shaped or diamond-shaped?

  29. John, you deftly avoided a Salsa War.


    You have started a Spousal Salsa War. You fool, you’ve tastily doomed us all.

  30. Yep, “wraps” seem to be yuppie food.

    Also, I’m now hungry for a quesadilla, and… I’m out of tortillas. How did that happen? Wasn’t planning to head out today, but may have to.

    It’s a lot easier to check the price per ounce now that most grocery stores have that (in fine print) on a label on the shelf under the items. Won’t say how many decades ago I started checkign that, but it was long before there were shelf-labels. (Also before the cognitive function damage thing made doing math in my head much more difficult.) One time, I found that buying two, two-ounce bottles of vanilla was cheaper than one four-ounce, which was counterintuitive. The only places I don’t stress over price per ounce/whatever are Trader Joe’s and Costco, and even then, I have a fair idea of what things cost elsewhere; Costco isn’t always the cheapest.

    Yep, griddled. Cast iron griddle; if lacking that, a cast iron skillet…

    I can see two separate wars starting here – best salsa, and best method of making quesadillas. (We could really get into it about exactly how authentic chiles rellenos are made, but that sort of religious war is more than I could deal with. *grin*)

  31. Tangentially, my dad always laughed (now) at how my mom, while shopping in their “just married starving college kids” mode bought butter in a “3 for the price of 4!!” sale and INSISTED on getting the deal even when the manager tried to talk her out of it.

  32. I’d say it’s 2 parts whitey hipster marketing, 3 parts dieter marketing. In the latter case, “tortilla” connotes a bread product, whereas “wrap”, for some reason, connotes a bread product substitute.

    Best tortillas I’ve ever had came from the Frontier Restaurant, across the street from the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque. They also served up a cinnamon roll in a bowl with about a cm of melted butter at the bottom. In related hispanic bread product news, the best sopapillas come from the El Sombrero Restaurant in Socorro, New Mexico.

  33. See also, spices. In supermarkets, you can usually purchase spices in two places: the “ethnic food” aisle and the “spice” aisle. The same product is often cheaper in the former aisle.

  34. Nope, dont buy the whole thought that it is related to racism or “white” people. I think it has to do more with catering to the hipster/youth group of people who feel that a eating something called a “wrap” is healthly and socially cool.

  35. I have been in stores where the unit price sticker for one manufacturer is in price / pound, and another manufacturer’s version of the same thing is unit priced in price / ounce.

  36. The difference is that you can “wrap up a baby” and no one will care, while if you “put a baby in a tortilla” the authorities will be summoned. Your lovely wife probably has a plan.

  37. I’d never heard of a “wrap” until I moved from Phoenix to Virginia in the late ’90s. I was like… why would you want a cold tortilla wrapped around your sandwich fixins? Seriously, cold tortillas? You want them hot, with butter, or cheese, or … etc. I’ve never warmed up to the idea of cold tortillas, no matter what hipster demographically-targeted name you wrap them in.

    And the right way to heat up a tortilla — before you wrap it around something or put butter on it — is to turn on your gas stove, and put it on the burner directly ’til it starts to soften. Flip it. Wait a few seconds. Tada. The only thing I don’t like about my house is the lack of gas stove. :|

  38. I actually think the ‘food insecurity’ thing is probably close. I’m a pretty adventurous cook – heck, I make my own tortillas as often as not – but I definitely do limit myself by categories. I mean, if I have ‘tortillas’, those are for making Mexican food. So the only thing I would think to wrap in a tortilla is a burrito.

    I’m going to have to try some ‘fusion’ cooking experiments this weekend now… I wonder how many other obvious great combos haven’t been coming to mind.

  39. My wife makes the most amazing flour tortillas (shortening, no lard). We also make our own pinto beans, and pico de galo. In the summer, I’ll grill up some chicken and steak and we’ll eat fajitas for a week straight. It’s wonderful.

  40. Nickp: I love chicken tikka masala, an Indian food which requires a small amount of an Indian spice blend, garam masala, to make. I live in Houston, which has a large ethnic population, so I didn’t think it would be that hard to find. Unable to find it in my local national chain grocery stores, I went to a national spice maker’s website, where they wanted $5.73 for a 2 oz jar. I went to a local Indian grocer, and their store had a 16 oz. container for $5.99. Guess which one I bought?

    I forget if I posted about it on Whatever before or not, but I recently made the decision to stop buying Quaker Chewy Peanut Butter/Choc Chip Granola Bars because they switched from a 10-ct box to an 8-ct box–without reducing the price. I emailed Quaker to ask them about it, and they told me they could either raise the price of the 10-ct box, or reduce the number of bars in the box “while keeping the price the same”. I pointed out to them that the price *per bar* certainly increased; I’m now paying the same price as before but the box is “missing” two bars! Much as I hated to do it (PB/choc *anything* is teh yumz, hehe), I haven’t bought a box since.

  41. …. In related hispanic bread product news, the best sopapillas come from the El Sombrero Restaurant in Socorro, New Mexico…. Wow – takes me back to my Tech days – they were some great sopapillas… thanks for the memory.

  42. Isn’t “cheese quesadilla” redundant? Like a “tooth dentist”? If it doesn’t have cheese it might be tasty, but it’s not a quesadilla.

  43. I don’t know what sort of hipsters you all are hanging out with, but the hipsters I know would certainly reject anything called a wrap instead of a tortilla. Wrap is a more middle class/chain restaurant sort of word these days.

    Speaking of “ethnic” aisles in supermarkets, one of our local super supermarkets tried an English and German section with things like Marmite, Heinz baked beans, spätzle and mushy peas. That lasted about a year. I think the Indian foods have taken the spot.

  44. While I would never underestimate the ability of white people to be clueless, “wraps” are a big thing here in SF where even Pastyface Nordsdottir, Queen of the Sun-Fearers, loves her some lengua burritos. The idea of a wrap is less bread therefore blah blah handwave healthier something. HOWEVER, I have never seen a grocery store selling tortillas as “wraps”. Must investigate.

    @Jennifer, chicken tikka masala is not actually Indian, but British.

  45. I don’t know if I’d read raaaaaaacism into duo-labeling of a rolled-and-cooked-flour-product (though I know the left sees racism and racists everywhere as the hunt for raaaaacists is the new McCarthyism/witch hunt). Instead I’d point out that a tortilla == burrito == fatty foods, while wrap == turkey wrap == low-fat-low-carb “health” food. And for weight conscious Bobos that’s a selling point.

    But that’s just me and my reality-based analysis.

  46. My favorite thing to do with tortillas (tortillas, dammit, not wraps) is cut them into wedges, flash-fry them both sides in butter in a skillet, and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar.

  47. I must now demand your wife’s salsa recipe. Bring it forth, or I shall get pouty.

  48. Scorpius:

    Why two equal signs per instance there? Wouldn’t one do?

    Wait, don’t answer that. I’m self-derailing.

    I do think there’s something to the burritos = fatty, wraps = not idea, although I suspect people who actually think their wrap sandwich somehow has a minimal amount of calories are deluding themselves. The tortilla itself starts you off at over 200 calories.

    Roy McMillion:

    I had to marry into the family to get the recipe. So pout all you want, my friend.

  49. John, I’ve been coding (in R and C). In coding two equal signs signify an equivalence; one loads a value into a variable.

  50. My wife has declared war on family recipe secrets because some beloved dishes nearly left the Earth with their beloved creators. She gathered up a bunch of recipes and bound them at Kinkos and distributed them to family. What’s more, I think she’s willing to give them up to others as well, since they aren’t trade secrets for anyone’s restaurant or unpublished cookbook.

    I would venture to guess that Scorpius programs in C or any of its many descendents which use “==” for comparison and “=” for assignment. It’s a distinction that doesn’t make sense when speaking to humans because no human would believe that after reading burrito = fatty that the burrito in question would become fatty, even if it wasn’t before, just because the human read that line, though Rick Cook’s _Wizardry_ series pretty much describes such a universe.

  51. Ya. I think the word “wrap” has a magical quality. You can buy a scarf or a shawl from Ross or Target for about $15. Macy’s can take that exact same garment, call it a wrap and sell it for $79. Whether it’s stuffed with meat & cheese or a human, calling it a wrap magically allows you to charge more for it.

  52. Microwaving a quesadilla?? I’m sorry, but that is not a quesadilla, you might as well just call it a melty cheese wrap. You have to grill that sucker.

  53. A similar situation happened with oven roasting bags. For years, quite a lot of people (me included) have used Reynolds oven roasting bags to line crockpots with–it makes cleanup infinitely easier. The company figured this out, and began to market the same bags as “crockpot liners”. If you compare the two packages, crockpot liners cost more, yet contain fewer bags. We stick with roasting bags, just like we stick with “tortillas” instead of “wraps.” Being in Arizona must be like CA….we’ve been doing it for years. :)

  54. My favorite do-it-yourself Algebra question: McDonalds has (or has had, at various points) a four-piece, a six-piece, a nine-piece, a ten-piece, and a twenty-piece McNuggets. Go to your local McDs and write down the prices of each. Now, assuming that all McNuggets cost the same, and the cheapest box is free, solve for the cost of all of the other boxes.

    Last time I did this was several years ago. At that point, the most expensive box cost a quarter.

  55. It’s the soft-shell bigotry of low expectations.

    Re: quesadilla method, I have four children, so I never make quesadillas in quantities less than 6. I get out the two-burner pancake griddle and brush it with a thin film of olive oil. Crispy, and the cheese oozes out the side and turns into little crispy cheese bits which the cook gets to scarf. Not that I would ever overload the quesadillas on purpose so that they will ooze more or anything.

  56. $3.59 for eight tortillas? Are they out of their flippin’ minds?

    There’s a joint over in the Old South End (aka Little Mexico to us native Toledoans) that sells ’em 25 for $2.50. And FRESH! As in, Abuelita is making ’em in the back and yelling at the grandkids to go fetch her more Tequila. (I kid you not. You should see this Abuelita’s biceps. I want her on my side in a fight!) I only buy tortillas from Kroger when I’m desperate and can’t get over to Little Mexico for them.

  57. Gluten Free Rice Crispies are $4.95 a box, while regular Rice Crispies are $2.95 a box – I’m paying $2.00 for them not to include barley malt in the mix. Food intolerances are a joy.

  58. Keith @ 2:12 pm: The segregation of grocery store items doesn’t bother me too much. It’s useful to have tortillas and refried beans in the same area of the store, for example. Likewise, if I need nước mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce), it’s useful for the store to put it in the Asian food aisle. (By the way, my local store moved the rice noodles from the Asian food aisle to the gluten-free aisle, and I spent 10 minutes totally confused before I broke down and asked a clerk.)

    JoAnne Pope @6:51 pm: Thanks for the tip. I’m totally going to try that next time I use my slow cooker.

  59. At my local chain grocery store, spices in the Latino food section are much cheaper per ounce than in the traditional spice section. I agree with Marshall: $3.59 for tortillas(?), even in North Carolina they’re cheaper — at least, since there’s been an influx of Latinos. When we first moved here, Old El Paso was the only “Mexican” option.

  60. Reasonablemike:

    I feel your pain. to get a gluten free pizza at one of the local eateries i have to pay $5 bucks on top of the already astronomical (oakland is not the land of cheap food) asking price.

    At that price i’d almost rather go eat a regular pizza and die a slow agonizing death as my intestine attacks itself with antibodies.


  61. When the Almacs supermarket chain was still a going concern in New England, one could go to each of the three in my small residential city and find different prices for the same items in each one. One had low prices, in the lowest-income section of the city; one had high prices, in the upscale section of the city (quote from a manager: “People here want to pay higher prices, because they can.”). Presumably the third one represented something close to “normal” pricing. So, regional pricing, one of which was snob appeal. Talking to that manager opened my eyes; this has opened them wider yet.

  62. To be honest the idea of a “Wrap” took me a long time to grok…. In the house I grew up in “Wraps” were called Leftovers…. Meaning if you missed dinner and where hungry when you got home you pulled out a Tortilla or 3 and layered what ever looked good on it and ate. Reason being Grandma would make you suffer if you left a dirty dish behind, and we where too lazy to wash up to her standards…. (bad habits i learned from my Uncles)

    As for the price differential it got be the lack of a Barrio… At least that is my theory.

    Now we all know the best Sopaipilla and/or Tortilla are made by my dear departed Grandmother. Now there are some pretty good ones available from my local Tortilla Factory (a good old fashioned one run by a bunch other peoples Grandmothers). If it helps my Grandmother’s family is still on/around the Rez in New Mexico, so there is a chance the cited establishments are some how related.

  63. Hey John,
    You missed one other package detail which I’m guessing is geared toward the white middle class – “original” vs “large”. Were there “large wraps” (aka “jumbo”) in the trendy isle, another 30% larger than “original”?

  64. I live in San Antonio and I still haven’t figured out the reasoning for the pricing of tortillas, corn or flour. You can get 10 corn tortillas for about 88 cents, 20 for 1.09 and 300 for about 2 bucks, lol. Almost seriously.

    Then for the flour ones, there’s the “homestyle” ones that look and taste exactly like the “regular” ones, and there’s also the taquito size which are smaller, but quantity wise costs the same as the “homestyle” or regular. Then there are the burrito size. Sometimes I just close my eyes and grab whatever.

    The best place to get them, though, is a taqueria or even a restaurant, but they’re going to cost you about 4 bucks for a dozen.

  65. I grew up in NYC, so got spoiled by the availability of just about any variety of “ethnic” foods, which I sorely missed after leaving home (to work in Wash DC) at 18. In particular, I haven’t seen a once-beloved knish of *any* level of quality since then. And it took me forever to get used to a “plain” hamburger anywhere outside NY including lettuce, tomato, and salad dressing.

    Side note, more on-topic with regard to naming things … my late mother couldn’t decide whether the wave of high-priced “soul food” eateries in the 60’s was disgraceful or hilarious. She’d grown up in a western-Ozarks sharecropper family (western Arkansas), and clued us in to the fact that these places were charging a fortune for what her family ate when they couldn’t afford anything better.

    When I moved up here (Toronto originally), some ethnicities (sp?) were well represented in the culinary area — my two favorites were Italian (veal and pepper sandwiches) and Macedonian (meatball sandwiches loaded with killer-hot peppers), the latter in particular dirt-cheap and a lunchtime take-out special. And good Chinese (Cantonese, not Szechuan) restaurants were a common place to fill up tastily on a tight budget.

    I’ve been in German-Mennonite country about 30 years now, and despite two large universities attracting foreign (particularly Oriental) students, there’s no such thing as ethnic food here, not even German. Used to be some good oriental-buffet places, but they’re all gone now. The only imitation of Hispanic food is Taco Bell … I used to like their nachos belgrande, or whatever its name was, for a meal, but gave up on the place when they simultaneously halved the portion size and doubled its price for in effect a 4x increase.

    As for wraps, locally they’re only available pre-filled … our big sub chain, Mr. Sub, introduced them, and they were pretty good at first, with contents like spicy beef and rice. But then the corporation changed its mind and now they’re only available with standard sub fillings. The supermarkets (the ones with attended deli counters) are even worse — can you picture ham and swiss or (shudder!) tuna salad in a wrap?

  66. The day Chili’s opened up in Jersey City, NJ, we were there for lunch. It was the closest thing to home that two expatriate Texans had and it was close to the office.

    When the waitress asked if we needed more wraps for our fajitas, it took us a moment to figure out what she was talking about.

    DaveNOE, “Cheese Quesadillas” is mentioned in the Austin Lounge Lizard’s “Big Rio Grande River”, which I think you will enjoy.

  67. I read the first sentence, and told my husband “Hey, John Scalzi uses your recipe!”
    Actually, I didn’t tell him, since I was at my computer in the back office and he was at his in the front room. I sync’d my tabs and texted him to check “Whatever”.
    He walked back to the office to note he also uses a few drops of hot sauce (Trappey’s Red Devil for preference), and to question my tortilla buying experiences. I skip the Mission brand entirely and go for the locally produced ones, almost always cheaper.

  68. Your next assignment: figure out why the same box of noodles (12 oz.) is 6 servings according to the nutrition info, and 3 servings according to the cooking directions.

    You don’t have to figure out why it’s a 12-oz. box instead of a 16-oz. box; it’s the same as the Quaker Granola Bar thing. (They put less in each box so they don’t have to raise the price!)

  69. There may be a factor of people thinking “wraps” are better, but it’s probably also that people looking for “wraps” are expected to be able to pay more. It’s price discrimination via packaging.

  70. I’m going to take this opportunity to plug making your own corn tortillas. Cheap, delicious, zero fat, gluten-free, no packaging, fun to make, store well, and oh, did I mention delicious? In fact, this thread has made me hungry, so now I shall go press some masa. Yum.

  71. MikeB-Cda:
    I grew up in upstate NY; have been on the west coast since the mid-70s. And I *still* occasionally screw up when I order a burger, forgetting to tell them “no sauce/no mayo” – picking the lettuce and tomato off isn’t a problem, but it’s impossible to get all the mayo or whatever off the bun. I don’t want salad on my burger, dammit! *grin*

  72. If I’m doing lazy quesadillas, the toaster oven beats the microwave every time. If I’m not, I like to use ghee to fry in. Ghee = the Indian version of clarified butter, and actually available in my local (California) supermarket. I’ve never seen actual clarified butter for sale. For you non-cooks out there, clarifying butter removes the bits that burn easily, so it’s much better for frying.

  73. While looking in our fridge for something else I notice we have a tortilla package there. Yep, we have the wrap version. Guess we’ll pay more attention next time we go shopping.

  74. Aussie experience: We have just about every food item (and indeed every item sold in supermarkets) sold with a “price per 100g/100mL/1L” or equivalent volumetric measure on the shelf price, and hence on sale labels. These labels are actually required by law (two different iterations of the law) and they do help to get an idea of what you’re paying for.

    Often it’s quite interesting to see the difference in prices between the store’s “own brand” item, the brand name item, and the “plain wrap” item – particularly if you check country of origin and realise they’re all probably coming from the same damn processing plant.

    The “ethnic foods” aisles here in Australia tend to be … interesting. Depending on where you shop, they’ll generally have Mexican/Tex-Mex (mostly “Old El Paso” brand kits and extras); Indian (curry pastes, curry sauces, hot mango chutney); Generic Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, Phillipino, Indonesian and Japanese specialist ingredients – Chinese doesn’t count because they’re found out in the “mainstream” shelves now); specialist Italian/Southern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern ingredients (pasta & pasta sauce are “mainstream”, but things like vine leaves, polenta, couscous, rosewater, etc can still be hived off as “ethnic” on occasion); specialist British ingredients (salad cream, for example; ditto digestive biscuits and Jaffa cakes); and specialist Dutch/Northern European ingredients (waffles, salted liquorice, etc). I’m looking forward to seeing an increase in the number of specialist African cooking ingredients which show up on the shelves, as we’re starting to see a rising number of African emigrants arriving here.

    (No, I don’t have a problem with multiculturalism. My heritage is largely English – multiculturalism here saves me from a lifetime of meat and three veg with everything boiled into submission!)

  75. Megpie71: I’m an American who spent her childhood in Chicago (midwest US). We moved to Houston (southeast coast) in ’84. While my mother is a competent cook, she’s not as good at it, or as culinarily adventurous, as my father is. Therefore, I grew up eating very bland food. My mother’s idea of “ethnic” cuisine was making spaghetti or lasagna, and she always used ground beef instead of Italian sausage. Only when I left home and started cooking for myself was I able to try out new foods and new cuisines. I would love it if my local grocery store had more ethnic variety, and it would be even better if they kept them in a single location. Even the “snobby” grocery store near our house has a very limited variety of ethnic foods, and the last time I went looking for some garam masala (see my comment above) at the snobby store, I realized they kept their ethnic foods in at least three different places in the store (and they still didn’t have the garam masala)!

  76. I was curious about this so I looked at the Mission Websites and learned something interesting. The American and British versions of the Mission websites have different explanations about the difference between a tortilla and a wrap. It makes it seem clear that the answer is all marketing.

    From the British version of the website:
    Q. What is the difference between a wrap and a tortilla?

    There is no difference between a wrap and a tortilla. Technically Tortilla is the more correct term, however ‘wrap’ has developed as an alternative name that also describes a key use for this product.

    From the American version of the website:
    What is the difference between a wrap and a flour tortilla?

    Wraps are a sandwich with a twist; they are larger then a regular tortilla and come in a variety of flavors. Good for appetizers and party snacks.

  77. Fun fact: NASA sent astronauts up with tortillas instead of bread. In zero G it’s easier to wrap your food up rather than negotiating the sandwich innards plus two pieces of bread, and tortillas don’t crumble as easily so there are fewer inconvenient bread crumbs floating around.

    It appears that they called them “tortillas” regardless of how they used them, and no word on whether they made spaceadillas.

  78. Megpie71: one of the interesting things that has happened here in Georgia recently is that the larger farmers’ markets now carry sweet potato leaves; apparently they’re a popular vegetable in parts of Africa and Asia, and the local farmers have discovered there’s a market for them.

  79. To add to what Matthew in Austin said: My mother worked for several years for a (sadistic, abusive !#$%^) baker who made both tortillas and wraps, so I went to her for help. In addition to the possibility of added flavors in wraps (spinach, pesto and tomato being common), wraps also use a different grade of flour, which results in a flatter, more even product than a tortilla. (To see the difference, compare a wrap to a “gordia” style tortilla.) So while the ingredients and the calorie count may be different, (some) bakers are using a different flour to get there.

  80. The segregation of “ethnic” foods in supermarkets may be a practical matter of convenience for the shelvers. These items probably come from a different distributor, so when its truck pulls up, the store employee can unload its delivery and take it to one place. Some items in supermarkets, such as sodas, are shelved by the distributor. I don’t know if this is the case for the ethnic foods, though.

    “Wraps are bigger than tortillas.” Huh? My local Mi Pueblo supermarket has five sizes of flour tortillas. I have two Mexican and one Asian grocery stores within walking distance. To get to a Safeway, I have to drive.

  81. I tend to agree with Origuy in that I think there’s often a convenience issue for the shelvers. For example Ho Hos and Twinkies are in the baked good isle with things like sandwich bread. I guess those “treats” might be made by a baker, but that’s not where I would have shelved them.

    Similarly, I would have put wraps in the baked good aisle with things like sandwich bread, but our local store shelves those on an end cap — the very end cap of the aisle that holds the Mission and Chi-Chi’s brand tortillas (but not the same aisle as the actual Mexican tortillas). Hmmm.

    And I think other folks are right about the marketing of the 6-count of wraps vs the 8-count of tortillas. I could see how “Spinach & Herb” or “Sundried Tomato & Basil” wraps might cost more per piece than a plain tortilla. But they still want to offer a similarly packaged plain wrap to the folks to don’t want green or orangey-red wraps, so they market a 6-count wrap too. It avoids confusion. Yeah. That’s it.

    FWIW, there’s a “Carb Balance” tortilla which costs even more per piece than the plain wraps, but it’s “balanced” so it must be better. FWIW, it looks like it has just as many carbs as regular tortillas, but it has the benefit of gobs of added fiber. Fiber balances, right? Fiber from what kind of plant, animal or mineral, I’m not sure yet. They do taste pretty good with cheese though.

  82. It’s all about price differentiation and price confusion. You want schmucks with a lot of money to have to choose between a lot of similar things with different prices so they buy “as good as they can afford” — nobody wants to be the person with the own-brand “value” packaged stuff.

    On the other hand, you want people who really are price-sensitive to still buy stuff from you, so you provide the cheapass version in amongst the price confusion so that people who care can find it.

    In the UK, you can buy Milky Ways (which are more like US Three Musketeers IIRC) in single or double packets. The doubles invariably cost more than the singles, despite simply being 2x singles in one packet. It’s because adults generally reach for the bigger pack and are less price-sensitive to the pennies-saving that can be made on candy, whereas kids will get the singles either because they can only afford one or are price-conscious enough to buy two singles.

    If you’re pricing based on materials costs in this day and age, you’re pretty much doing it wrong.

    I recommend:
    * Priceless by William Poundstone (
    * The Undercover Economist (

    For a lightweight guide to why things cost what they cost. It’s a fascinating business.

  83. A couple of additional observations:
    1) Among tortillas, prices on the actual latino brands are a bit lower than the traditional US-based brands.

    2) Same thing applies to “flat bread” vs. “mini pizza crusts”. I haven’t verified if the 2 are exactly the same, but down here in FL, you get 4 flat breads for about $1 less than 3 mini pizza crusts the same size.

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