Program Note: For more on Alonso Arellano's green tortillas, tune in to AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.tortilla2.jpg caption="Alonso Arellano in his Nopaltilla factory. He says the demand for these green tortillas is greater than the supply."]
CNN Senior Producer
Alonso Arellano believes the green tortillas flopping onto a conveyor belt in his small factory are their own economic stimulus in a clear plastic package. The tortillas, called Nopaltillas, are made with powder from the nopal or prickly pear cactus, renowned in Mexico for its healthy properties.
Arellano says right now the demand for these tortillas is greater than supply.
“You know instead of giving all this money to AIG executives, they should just give it to me to invest,” Arellano says. “I could take that money, rebuild tortilla factories that are struggling in this economy. And that would create jobs.”
Arellano is one of those restless entrepreneurs who runs around acting like he’s just glad to be breathing.
And he is. Arellano almost took his last breath at the age of 11 while visiting the United States on vacation from Mexico.
“I always had this pain in my legs, and they started hurting real bad so my mom took me to the doctor,” Arellano explains, “They did some tests and found I had 90 percent blockage in the artery near my heart.”
Arellano underwent heart surgery and never returned to Mexico.
But Arellano still clings to much of his Mexican heritage – including the belief that the prickly pear cactus is a cure-all.
“Growing up all I ever heard was how good the prickly pear is for you,” Arellano explains “They say it helps reduce cholesterol, that it’s high in dietary fiber and it’s only 50 calories for one tortilla,”
Now only four people work for Arellano making tortillas, but he says that number could grow. Arellano is in talks about partnerships with a major health food store chain, a northern California distributor that ships to 150 stores, and a Latino supermarket chain.
“If any one of these hits I will go from shipping boxes of tortillas to palettes,” he says. Most of his sales are from stores.
But he also sells the Nopaltillas on the internet for $1.49 a dozen, and $2.99 for three dozen.
Arellano says he tested and fiddled with the recipe for months.
Seems like he got the formula right. Take a bite out of one of these Nopaltillas without anything extra on it and it tastes great plain.
It's nice to see something as simple as a green tortilla can inspire a little consumer spending.
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