Taco Sales Soar Beyond National Taco Day

*FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES** Crispy Black Bean Tacos With Feta and Cabbage Slaw are seen in this Monday Feb. 9, 2009 photo. Tacos from the drive thru may taste great, but these Crispy Black Bean Tacos With Feta and Cabbage Slaw made at home are every bit as tasty and won't leave the usual mess in your car. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe) (National Journal)

It's Oct. 4 — also annually known as National Taco Day. Go out and celebrate at your favorite taqueria.

Tacos, which are generally filled with meat, onions, cilantro, and salsa, have become part of mainstream American diets, reflecting the influence of the growing Latino population in the country, specifically those of Mexican descent.

At the base of every taco is a tortilla. And they are flat-out hot.

A study by the Tortilla Industry Association found that corn and flour tortilla sales reached $6 billion in 2006. The U.S. annual sales of tortillas have already outpaced other ethnic and specialty bread items, including bagels, croissants, muffins and pita breads, pushing tortilla sales to a whopping $11 billion per year.

Even during the recession, sales of tortillas increased for five years, according to an article in Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery.

The billion-dollar industry can be attributed to the Latino population growth but also to the popularity of Mexican food. Ethnic fast-food restaurants, such as Baja Fresh Mexican Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Qdoba Mexican Grill offering burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, also are driving the sales nationwide.

Recognizing the growing tortilla industry, Congress declared September "National Tortilla Month," which overlaps with National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated annually between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.