March 17th, 2009
05:05 PM ET

Can green tortillas create new jobs?

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-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.tortilla1.jpg]

Paul Vercammen
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.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.tortilla4.jpg]

“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,”

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.tortilla3.jpg]

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.

Filed under: Paul Vercammen • Road to Rescue
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Maribel

    Mmmmmm que Rico........
    We use Nopales in Mexico and in the United States for lots of meals. Cactus with Steak, Cactus Salad, Cactus with eggs, and now Nopaltillas! The bad thing is that you do not find many fresh Nopales, only jarred and I do not like jarred. The taste is similar to green beans, but fresher and crispier, healthier and better. Check out the benefits of the cactus, they are great. Also, the cactus pear which is called "Tuna" (but not the tuna fish), is very sweet and yummy! I gotta go visit Mexico soon.

    March 20, 2009 at 10:26 am |
  2. Josephine Murphy

    Mark my words, this is the biggest find since sliced bread.I am totally sold on this product and venture.I wish I could invest and be a part of this new product.It is going to take off!I believe in Alonso Arrellano and the nopal.

    March 18, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  3. Cheryl - Fonthill, Ontario CAN

    I'm hoping these can be shipped to Canada soon – my husband spent 6 months travelling through Mexico before we were married & often talks of eating variations of the prickly cactus.

    March 18, 2009 at 9:38 am |
  4. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    "Green tortillas" ----there is a significant probelm with green tortillas---–instead of eating them--–the government is giving them out to all who ask--–

    March 18, 2009 at 8:34 am |
  5. Sean D. Murphy

    Does anyone know how to submit or direct a story to 360? I work with an organization that provides probono high-caliber consulting to innercity business that creates jobs even in these hard times... We are based in the bay area, and it is exactly what this current theme on 360 is covering.


    March 18, 2009 at 2:14 am |
  6. Ken

    Looks like a pretty good product and great pricing.... until you look at the shipping charges on their website. They seem a bit out of wack. $14 for Fedex ground from Southern California to Northern California? Pretty rough for a $2.99 package of 36 tortillas. Tortillas aren't that heavy are they....??

    Anyway, I was about to try some, but not for that shipping cost.

    March 18, 2009 at 2:11 am |
  7. Shere forkner

    I went to the contact page. There are places to put my information and to ask questions, just no place to click and send it. I want some of these tortillas!

    March 18, 2009 at 1:59 am |
  8. KIm

    What a great concept and that's pretty cool innovation ! Unlock small business loans ! The president said ,do it yesterday !

    March 18, 2009 at 1:47 am |
  9. joanna verhaar

    Please send me the email address to order the Nopaltillas. Thank you

    March 18, 2009 at 1:26 am |
  10. searchmycampus

    Excellent site ac360.blogs.cnn.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here: this... As it's taken me literally 2 hours and 51 minutes of searching the web to find you (just kidding!) so I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

    March 18, 2009 at 1:23 am |
  11. KatchProFILMS

    "Fair is fair"... he DID have good advice, but... you know...

    March 18, 2009 at 1:09 am |
  12. wallace ben

    The Supreme Court has spoken on the Gun Control issue. The Government is installing traffic camera right outside of my hood and in my hood soon they will want them in my bed room like they did with Dr. ML King. I have the right to secure my domicile and die in the process, I was in the Crops and the Army . I have done my part so that I can enjoy life I erned as an American.

    March 18, 2009 at 1:04 am |
  13. KatchProFILMS

    re: 5 cities in 5 days

    Just an idea... there's a Medley Piano Cover by David Sides, aka:
    Kanye West Medley by David Sides.

    It is 5.5 minutes (conicidental). But, if you listen closely it seems to have 5 distict parts - one for each city.

    What IF, you were to run each featured "short" podcast... a segment... perhaps like the one with the "kids at risk" c/o Watts ("parents at risk"?! I worked with some of these kids... in L.A. ... - most were brilliant.

    Just challenged. "Challenged" with opportunity). Just a few minutes.

    And run a piece of this music. One "piece" - one part, for each city. 5 x 5. (Perhaps, turn off the dialogue and lay over the music. Just the music. Just the image. Just that.)

    Just a thought.

    Excellent medley. (Thanks.)

    March 18, 2009 at 1:01 am |
  14. Christina

    This is the american dream. Government needs to stop on a dime and focus on the people and not wall street. The greed and corruption on wall street goes beyond measure and repair. The only way to fix it is to let it purge and start over. I am all for a Nationalized Bank system, then maybe us the people could get some of that 166 mill and put it to better use.

    March 18, 2009 at 12:58 am |
  15. wallace ben

    When will the investigation begin in to the multiple homecides that where done in the seven days prior to the world outrage that caused the the President and his administration to act on the New Orleans area residents some aide in the worst domestic tragedy in the history of the UNITED of AMERICA. We ask for help and they came to kill us. why was this story never told. IT seems that DL Hughly was right the republicans did set , The HONORABLE MR. OBAMA, up with that AIG thing. Those responsible should spend their jail time at Angola State Prison inLouisiana as should certain members of cCongress but not the Honorable Mr. B. Franks, send him to St. Gabrail State Prison. These people are bringing our country into nonexistance. 12 billion dollars to Germany, they will soon be again trying to dominate the world with Arianism.


    March 18, 2009 at 12:53 am |
  16. KatchProFILMS

    re: 5 cities in 5 days

    Nice little medley, Mr. Cooper (re: L.A., NOLA, Detroit, NYC, Miami). (You are an Artist... you can do this.)

    (Happy St. Paddy's Day... re: GREEN tortillas. Yum.)

    March 18, 2009 at 12:33 am |
  17. George

    Alonso Arellano is a very good example of being able to adapt to the ever changing economic landscape. I am entering the business management field after 24 years of Naval service in the Engineering field. I remember when I was 13-14 I had my summer night-crawler business, I would always have "good quality" worms in the dry summer when others would be out. I would sell cheaper, gave an extra worm per doz. "baker's dozen" I went to auctions to acquire coolers and growing tubs. I even had bait shops come 80 miles to purchase my worms. My overhead was my two younger brothers that I trained on how to get the worms then I would pay them for getting the worms and an occasional pizza. $.10 cents a doz, I sold for $.50 or $.75 depending on the competition.

    I hope Alonso suceeds in his quest, I am confident he will. Meanwhile I think I will order some those green tortillas and decide for myself, "I love tacos"

    March 18, 2009 at 12:22 am |
  18. Val

    Southern California has many supermarkets that makes those and other kids of tortillas. There is nothing to feel wow! about.

    March 18, 2009 at 12:04 am |
  19. ragazzo25

    In all honesty, aren't Latino employment /unemployment rates disproportionate considering the 11 million illegal Hispanic immigrants employed in this country out of 40 million total Hispanics? The odds of an American National or Citizen in South Florida who does not speak Spanish are very very slim! I am currently unemployed, and the first question that the past five companies have asked me is "Are you fluent in Spanish?"

    March 18, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  20. lsalomon

    Thank you for bringing this story to my attention. I admire Alonso for his hard work,and I look forward to trying his "green" tortillas! I can't wait to try them....especially since I am on a diet!!!

    Tolleson, AZ

    March 17, 2009 at 11:59 pm |
  21. Gail Dawson

    I am a health nut and I would buy them if they are as healthy as he says. I have to do some research to find out.

    March 17, 2009 at 11:54 pm |
  22. Larry L.

    American tax dollars saved his life and paid his health care while he was here on vacation,but the Democrats say that there isn't any health care ,that's why we need NATIONAL HEALTH CARE–apparently we have a safety net in place,SO..............we really don't need it.

    March 17, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  23. Annie Kate

    Green tortillas – I haven't heard of the cactus he is using before but if it does have herbal advantages for your health this is an effort that wins on several different levels. I hope he is wildly successful with this. And usually if it is green I leave it on the plate I'm going to actually try one of these.

    March 17, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  24. Richard

    I hope Whole Foods begins supplying these Nopaltillas soon here in Seattle.

    March 17, 2009 at 11:12 pm |
  25. Cindy

    Back to the Nopaltillas.....where can I get them? I'm a long-time vegetarian. I'm always looking for tasty, healthy food products!

    March 17, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  26. Jo

    On the "healthy" green tortillas.. I noticed that the workers were not wearing sanitized gloves when handling the tortillas. How can this be healthy?

    March 17, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  27. Ann Estay

    excuse the intromision – however please do not refer to a tortilla as a "taco" as you just did!

    A tortilla is only PATR of a taco and the staple of most mexican meals!
    Regards, ANN

    March 17, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  28. Ken

    How many homes could be built in New Orleans for 165 million dollars?
    New Orleans needs the money more than Execs.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  29. Ron

    Hey Anderson,
    Maybe AIG is to big to fail, but they are not to big to break up and sell off to other companies that can run a business successfully. It's called free enterprise.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  30. david cross

    Let AIG fail! why not start a new company, hiring honest people instead of those crooks. All you hear is AIG can't fail because of the 74,000,000 polices. Don't those policies pay monthly premiums into that company!, it would be much cheaper to put 50 billion in a account to pay claims than the 200 billion the govt. is going hand over to those crooks. I was under the impression that insurance companies take in far more money than they pay out. By the way, Don't allow AIG to deposit the money in chase bank or it will dissapear like bernie madoff's funds. PLEASE READ THIS ON THE AIR!

    March 17, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  31. craig

    first go in and fire all the top management since they could not manage a hot dog stand or a paper route,with out stealing from it ,then hold a giant job fair to get some of best and brightest that have lost there job through no faut of there own,Americans just want to work,for a decent wage you could clean house and make a much better company ,you know how can we let one company of greedy sob's bring down all the rest of us i hate to be so bunt but someone needs to get some balls and stand up for what right,the hell with these guys,here is a perfect example of people that should loose there jobs,homes cars,and put them in a tent city i lost my job and i know i could do a better job,why do we put up with this

    March 17, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  32. Ken

    Being a union worker, how do you explain to the blue collar sector that our collective agreements don't hold up in bail-out. We have to take cuts, but the Executives at AIG, who were going to chapter 11 if they were not helped, still get a bonus when they are still in the red for 175 billion dollars. Can the unions use their bargaining staff? Please..

    March 17, 2009 at 10:29 pm |
  33. Tracy

    Ask Bobbei Jindal what happened to the millions sent to his state to help the homeless...Or ask him why he hasn't been pressing FEMA or who the hell ever is in charge of getting these projects off the ground

    March 17, 2009 at 10:28 pm |
  34. Gene Hansmeier

    Lets face it Congress is as much at fault as AIG, or the rest of the overl compensated non productive thieves in Washington and on Wall Street.
    The American people should be outraged and hopefully will remember not to re-electing congressional leaders lacking integrity or taking ownership of their debilitating particianship.
    AIG and Congress need to have some of their constituents join the ranks of the unemployed, out of their homes then maybe they would have more clear picture of their lack of responsibllilty.
    qBush administration is as quilty as Madoff for allowing the state of our economy no accountability..
    What a leader!

    March 17, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  35. Dave Simmons

    I believe that the AIG mess is just another example of the incompetence of our Congress. Put the blame where it belongs. Lawmakers greed is also paid for with taxpayer money. Is there any honesty left in this Country?

    March 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  36. Lionel Bates

    Its becoming clearer with time just how stupid it was to rescue AIG. In bankruptcy the valuable part of AIG would be purchased by interested investors. 110,000 people would lose their jobs but that's one fifth of the monthly total lost these last few months. The Administration wants to help their good friends on Wall Street but they are sticking to the taxpayer. Let AIG go to bankruptcy.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  37. Lisa L

    The bailout money is not effective. Time to switch gears and change direction. The banks have gotten the money, bought other banks and will not lower my personal loan from 14 percent to 8 percent. I have a 720 credit score and had an emergency loan last year for only $6,000 dollars.

    Bank of America is hoarding the money. Executives up top at AIG need a reality check. The government is throwing money at the situation rather than governing the money in the situation.

    Remember the 1930s and the tent cities? Washington should remember history, it will repeat itself.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:20 pm |
  38. Ian

    R U kiddin' me .. AIG misappropriated billions but Washington is looking after millions!!!
    Com'on now!!!

    March 17, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  39. Susan

    As AIG claims that the company will be sued if they do not honer the bonus contracts . Let AIG get sued by their bonus recipients and then we, the American people can let AIG file for bankruptcy.

    March 17, 2009 at 5:32 pm |
  40. EJ (USA)

    I thought most green tortillas were spinach-flavored tortillas. I've never heard of the "prickly pair cactus." Interesting

    March 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  41. Carl Parisien Natick MA

    if its pink totillas that can create a job so be it. We need anything we can get to jumpstart things.

    March 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm |

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.