Because of the pandemic, many producers that primarily supplied restaurants and foodservice outlets, like Tortillas Inc., had to pivot to better reach consumers.

“We have adjusted to the pandemic stay-at-home protocols by increasing opportunities to sell to retail stores, as well as provide more product options from our talented kitchen staff,” said Natalie Bacani-Gutierrez, managing director, Tortillas Inc., Las Vegas. “Our customers are able to order from, pay online and pick up curbside. Soon, we hope also to offer a delivery option.”

Foodservice is slowly coming back, and in-store bakeries will be adding staff and reappearing in grocery stores. Tortillas and flatbreads have been a component of in-store bakery and restaurant menus for a while. However, providing unique food experiences that engage customers will be critical as people emerge from their homes seeking new food concepts.

There’s also opportunity to market tortillas and flatbreads as an ingredient to create refrigerated fresh or frozen foods for families, Kara Nielsen, director, Food & Drink, WGSN, a global trend forecasting company observed. Foodservice would do well to follow suit by serving marketing portable options as fresh, affordable comfort foods.

Home chefs learn from professional chefs, but sometimes replicating a dish from the foodservice industry is difficult for at-home cooks. Flatbreads and, in particular, naan can help create something a little different.

“Our role as manufacturers is to supply the quality when combined with the culinary expertise of many operators creating that unique innovation that will drive one extra visit as we move down the path to recovery,” said Jim Gibson, vice president of marketing at FGF Brands, Toronto.

Online channels also provide an opportunity for growth. Online sales of total Packaged Bakery rose more than 100% in the latest period, according to the IRI data. Consumers shopping online today report they plan to do a large share of their shopping digitally.

[Related reading: Cooking made easy with tortillas and flatbreads]

Everyone is thinking about health and staying healthy. Producers would do well to innovate with ingredients that contribute to immune health and highlight a simple clean label, observed Lee Sanders, senior vice president, government relations and public affairs for the American Bakers’ Association.

Education about how to use products in different recipes or paired with various foods is one of the best ways to engage consumers. Nearly four out of five consumers indicated in an August survey that they were “craving something new,” according to Datassential research.

Consumers are interested in learning. In-store bakery displays and demonstrations, recipe ideas, and “how-to” videos are instrumental in promoting products. They engage current consumers and attract new ones who have never tried tortillas and flatbreads or are looking for new ideas.

“The ability to engage consumers on the front lines set supermarkets apart from other channels and goes a long way for successful product awareness and promotion,” said Eric Richard, education coordinator at the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association. “Tortilla and flatbread producers would do well to engage in this type of marketing.”

To continue the robust growth for tortillas and flatbreads, manufacturers must consider these products’ versatility, value and health attributes.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on tortillas & flatbreads, click here.