Michael Austin first ate at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant in the mid-1970s when the concept of Mexican food was still in its infancy. Back then, he couldn’t envision that the ethnic fare from south of the border would be accepted by so many consumers, become assimilated into the American culture and grow at the rate that it did over the past few decades.

Now, the CEO of Kronos Foods believes Mediterranean food has the same potential.  “With the emphasis on the Mediterranean diet, Mediterranean food has the opportunity to grow at the same pace as Mexican food has done over the past 40 years,” he observed.

Kronos rides the trend that crowns Mediterranean-inspired foods with a healthy eating halo, broadening their popularity and moving them into the mainstream. Specifically, new product activity has driven volume, especially in the flatbread operation. In addition to being lower in calories than conventional bread, pita and various forms of flatbread ranging from cracker-thin crusts to 1.25-in.-thick breads can be used in multiple applications including bruschetta and sandwich wraps.

Recently, the company began combining products from its various businesses to create new meal replacement solutions. For example, Kronos took pita wedges from its bakery division and packaged them with hummus from its dairy operation to provide a convenient meal solution for consumers.

Managed by Nick Spondike, director of research and development, the test kitchen in the company’s Glendale Heights, IL, headquarters serves not only as its linchpin quality assurance lab, ensuring the pitas and flatbreads grill up properly without cracking or crumbling, but also as the hub for developing new products and creating alternative menu items for its food service customers. In addition to developing new flatbreads, the center also works with Kronos’ Rain Creek Baking subsidiary to create new desserts, including a seasonal cranberry baklava and new ways to use its filo dough sheets by in-store bakeries. Kronos also uses the center to train its multi-unit customers.