Burritos aren’t going anywhere. Whether a monstrous creation from your local food truck or a convenient, simple meat and cheese piece from a favorite c-store, burritos have long been held in high regard by consumers looking for a handheld meal.

According to Rachel P. Cullen, president and CEO of Ruiz Food Products, Inc., breakfast is a key factor in the burrito’s latest surge.

“A popular consumer trend that has affected the marketplace is the desire for protein in breakfast,” Cullen says. “Consumers know that protein helps them feel full longer, so they are reaching for high-protein foods, especially in the morning or for snacking occasions. Protein is also an essential nutrient that the body cannot store, so as consumers strive to live healthier lives, increasing protein as a percent of their daily intake makes perfect sense.”

Cullen also points out that, according to the US national Library of Medicine, there is a correlation between eating breakfast and better educational outcomes. The library says kids can lose two hours of learning on days they skip breakfast and that a good breakfast leads to above-average grades. The biggest point, for the concern of this story, is that less than half of kids eat breakfast at home every day, primarily due to running late.

That has led to companies like Ruiz Food Products — Dinuba, CA-based outfit that makes burritos, rellenos, empanadas, taquitos, and many other items for retail foodservice — to recently focus on breakfast burritos.

“We can push the El Monterey Signature Breakfast Burritos as great solutions that can save consumers time and money while making fueling up for the school day easy and convenient,” Cullen says. “Our egg, sausage and cheese burritos and our egg and Applewood smoked bacon breakfast burritos respond to the consumer’s desire for protein.”

Cullen also notes that consumer demand for spice is another factor driving interest in burritos.

“Heat and spice is also a current trend,” she says. “Many years ago the El Monterey brand introduced burritos with more spice and heat. The American palate was not ready to experiment: consumers were just beginning to enjoy bean and cheese, chicken and cheese or beef and bean flavors. But as the consumer’s palate has grown, so have our flavor options. We are currently working to introduce some of our newer and spicier flavors.”

A quick look at production

Some of the same equipment used for baked goods can be used in burrito production. Unifiller, for example, recently released its versatile Uni-X Extruder, which can be used as a burrito depositor as well as a depositor for cookies and meats.

The machine, which was launched at IBIE 2016, can help manufacturers cut down on product waste while maintaining product integrity. A programmable menu driver interface with photo sensor has space for up to 40 recipes and is capable of up to 60 deposits per minute.

Reiser’s Vemag line of portioners, formers, extruders, depositors, fillers and sheeting equipment can be used in burrito production as well. The company’s dough divider can be utilized as a dough portioner for tortilla production while the Vemag can also be used as a depositor to portion fillings onto conveyed tortillas to produce the burrito.