General Mills rides Mexican sales wave

Food giant General Mills has seen a surge in demand for its Old El Paso Mexican meal ingredients with sales up by a quarter in the past year to £123m.

More than one million extra people have joined the Mexican meal craze in the UK this year, taking the total to 5.7 million.

The spike in Old El Paso sales has been driven by product innovation, new packaging, and increased advertising. The brand invested over £6m in a new ad campaign called “Make Some Noise”, in a move designed to highlight how Mexican cuisine “brings friends and family together to connect and create ‘good noise’”.

The sales surge was also increased by the fact that pubs and restaurants were forced to close as a result of the pandemic.

Jose Alves, senior brand manager, said sales increased by 50% between April and July, during the first lockdown, and by 36% in November. Total sales for the 52 weeks to November 21 are up 24.4% to £123m, according to independent Nielsen data.

It saw Old El Paso become the best-selling brand in the £1.4 billion-a-year World Foods category, with family favourites including the Smoky BBQ Fajita Kit and Enchilada Dinner Kit and Tortilla Pockets.

“This year has obviously been incredibly difficult for the hospitality industry,” says Alves, “with pubs and restaurants forced to close by the pandemic in the Spring and now again at Christmas.

“Whenever people have been unable to eat out, we have seen a big spike in sales of Old El Paso as people looked for something different to cook.

“Families were obviously eating many more meals at home and they wanted to spice things up and ring the changes rather than just eating the same things that they normally cook.

“Mexican is easy to make, especially with Old El Paso meal kits, and can be fun as people can give it a bit of a personal twist by adding more or less of key ingredients.”

In September Old El Paso teamed up with former World No1 tennis star Sir Andy Murray to launch its most-exciting, new, innovation – Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets. Three years in the development, pockets, which have a sealed bottom, are a major breakthrough, helping mess-free Mexican experience anytime, anywhere. The company also donated 20,000 meal kits to FareShare, the food charity fighting hunger and food waste.

Alves adds: “For us, Mexican is all about connecting over food – using your hands, sharing the experience, and making good noise while you’re doing it.  Tortilla Pockets will allow people to do just that – minus the mess!”

General Mills estimates consumers have cooked more than 21 million Mexican meals with Old El Paso in the UK in the past year, equivalent to one in three of the population.