Taste the Many Flavors of New Mexico
Value-added agriculture has deep roots in the Land of Enchantment.
New Mexican cuisine is renowned throughout the world for its unique flavor profiles. Hatch green chile, summer onions, nuts and dairy farms flourish across the state. The unique culture and geography of New Mexico have contributed significantly to its thriving food and agriculture industries.
In This Article
‘Napa Valley of Green Chile’
Famous for its green chile, Hatch is situated on the banks of the Rio Grande at above 4,000 feet in elevation. Hot days and cold nights contribute to a strong plant and a uniquely flavored chile.
505 Southwestern, owned by Flagship Foods, is one of the nation’s leading green chile producers.
“We call [Hatch] the Napa Valley of green chile,” says Rob Holland, CEO of 505 Southwestern.
New Mexico is the #1
Chile, pistachios and summer onion producer in the country
Based in Albuquerque, 505 Southwestern started as a small regional brand. After being acquired by Flagship Foods over 10 years ago, its products are featured in stores worldwide, while its roots remain thoroughly New Mexican.
“We really feel like our brand is one of the brand ambassadors not just for New Mexico green chile peppers but for New Mexico as a state,” Holland says.
Regional ingredients are essential to many New Mexico-based food companies. For El Pinto in Albuquerque, family ownership is equally important. Founded by Jack and Connie Thomas in 1962, the company remains family-owned to this day.
El Pinto is the largest New Mexican restaurant in the state, selling sauces and salsas in major chain stores nationwide. In 2000, the twin sons of the restaurant founders launched El Pinto Foods’ salsa division.
farming operations in the state of New Mexico
Today, El Pinto uses 120 tons of chile a year, makes 2,000 cases a day, and can make up to 4 million jars annually in their 8,000-square-foot salsa production facility attached to the El Pinto restaurant.
Family recipes and specialty ingredients remain core to El Pinto’s products. For example, the family has grown its own red and green chile in Hatch for 17 years, many of them from heirloom seeds.
505 Southwestern has longstanding relationships with a number of chile farms in the region, many of them family-owned. In addition, its True Scholars program, founded in partnership with the New Mexico state government, provides yearly scholarships to high school students interested in studying agriculture.
“Our corporate philosophy that we adhere to as a company is ‘Honor the American farmer,’” Holland says. “Let’s help young people who are seeking higher education to afford that opportunity, specifically if they’re focused on agriculture in the Hatch Valley.”
A recent distribution deal with Walmart makes 505 Southwestern products available in every state. While green chile remains the “hero ingredient,” according to Holland, the brand pays homage to Southwestern flavors with a variety of salsas, sauces and pure roasted chile.
Chile and Beyond
In 2020, Olam Food Ingredients acquired Mizkan, a U.S.-based chile business with a plant in Deming, where green chile and other specialty peppers are processed. As a value-added ingredient, peppers have wide applicability in powdered, dehydrated and brined forms.
The affiliated Olam Spices facility in Las Cruces is the largest organic chile processor in the U.S. Olam also grows many of its pistachios in southern New Mexico, where hot, dry conditions are ideal for pistachio trees.
Rising to meet the demand for healthy, delicious energy bars, Taos Bakes in Questa has a nationwide presence. As a result, the energy bar market is growing swiftly, with a projected growth rate of 9.1% from 2020 to 2027.
Taos Bakes became an essential part of Questa in 2015 when it moved into a facility funded by a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. In this small town, job opportunities at Taos Bakes are welcome.
New Mexico is the #4
Cheese producer in the country
Taos Bakes products range from energy bars packed with nuts, chocolate and berries to cilantro lime pistachios and assorted granolas. The company has a presence in chains such as Whole Foods, REI, The Fresh Market and more in 22 states.
In Roswell, Leprino Foods operates the world’s largest mozzarella cheese producer. The company, which employs 600 workers in Roswell, is investing $60 million in the plant for upgrades to wastewater systems.
The Roswell plant leverages its water recycling capabilities, allowing for all the water used in the plant to be treated for irrigation purposes on nearby cropland where the feed is grown for local livestock.
For businesses across the state, the unique ingredients, culture and geography of New Mexico are well worth preserving and sharing with the world.
Want to know more?
To learn more about New Mexico, check out the latest edition of New Mexico Economic Development.