Abuelita Mexican Foods…International Fare, Locally Made

Tucked away in an industrial zone in Manassas Park, VA is a small minority-owned food manufacturing company that specializes in Mexican foods. Abuelita Mexican Foods has been making quality Mexican foods in Virginia since 1971. Eugene Suarez, Sr. and his son, Eugene Jr. produced their first tortilla on June 3, 1971 in their tiny tortilla factory in Herndon, VA. They started small but grew a company that has filled a 36,000 square foot facility with more than 60 employees.

Steve Dill, director of sales and chef for Abuelita, invited Foodservice Monthly for a tour of the plant. Nothing was closed off…other than the requirement for full body and beard gear to follow safe manufacturing practices—including ear protection.

Eugene Suarez, Sr. and Eugene Suarez, Jr. have remained committed to the tradition of cooking and grinding their own corn for their premium corn tortillas and corn tortilla chips. You will find many companies using the more convenient corn flour. Abuelita mixes modern technology and old world techniques to create their hand crafted products.

You will see traditional limestone grinding wheels from the American southwest to grind the corn. The difference is in the taste ad crunch of every chip. The classic 6-inch corn tortilla was their first product; inspired by the cooking and recipes of Carmen Suarez, the family matriarch. Whole kernel corn, cooked in small batches and ground with the traditional stone metate, was baked to create the great taste and texture of truly authentic corn tortillas. This process is still the fundamental basis for all of the corn products.

Today, they still offer that classic tortilla, plus a complete line of flour tortillas, flavored tortilla wraps, taco shells, many flavors and shapes of tortilla chips, and prepared Mexican entrees. They have expanded their offerings every year and even manufacture and custom pack for customers. Steve Dill described the basic tortilla market as commodity-based and the market is flooded with cheap chips of a quality that reflects their price.

Abuelita is a supplier to the foodservice industry, the retail grocery trade has shown great growth as well as club stores and specialty trades. Abuelita is a military, USDA, FDA, and Silliker inspected facility. They are also a Virginia’s Finest and minority-owned company.

Foodservice Monthly sees Abuelita at all the foodservice distributor shows and the Fancy Food Show as well as the Virginia Food & Beverage Show.

They started as the first Mexican food company in the region with Mexican food was not the culinary trend it is today. As a result, they have been in the market longer than their competitors and have proven Abuelita is not just a passing culinary fad, but rather a local institution with powerful brand name recognition. My favorite story is that one of their customers I based in Mexico…that means a tortilla chip made locally in Virginia is then shipped to Mexico…that’s a pretty good chip.

Reprinted from Foodservice Monthly magazine, August 2014