Consumers still perceive tortillas and flatbreads to be healthier than regular breads. However, if you compare product labels side by side, in many cases the tortilla and flatbread options have more fat, salt and calories per serving than traditional bread products.

“Consumer perception of what they need for health and wellness has shifted over the years,” said Tim Grzebinski, client insights principal for dairy and bakery, IRI. “It’s not just considerations about calories and fat anymore. Consumers are opting for foods with higher protein, lower sugar and carbs, and free-from GMOs, additives and preservatives.”

Today’s shoppers are informed, and they read labels to better understand what is in their food. Simple, authentic, nutritious ingredients will remain a key priority for consumers.

“Whether or not a food is considered healthful depends on the individual,” said Eric Richard, education coordinator at the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association. “Highlighting the healthy ingredients versus promoting the whole product as more nutritious will more likely influence consumer interest.”

Clean and simple has been the focus at FGF Brands. Its Stonefire naan is made with an authentic recipe, including real buttermilk and ghee, so when baked in the patented tandoor tunnel ovens at high temperatures, it creates the signature bubble and chars of an authentic naan.

Producers would do well to innovate functionality. The use of alternative flours is becoming more prevalent. Tortilla producers have responded to the appeal of plant-based foods, outside of traditional grain, using options like almond, coconut, cauliflower and pea protein. With the right combination of taste, flavor, texture and performance, these products are doing well, Mr. Grzebinski noted.

[Related reading: Tortillas and flatbreads capitalize on other channels]

Parsippany, NJ-based B&G Foods expanded the Ortega brand lineup with taco shells and flour tortillas formulated with cauliflower. Ortega Cauliflower & Corn Taco Shells and Ortega Cauliflower & Flour Tortillas, paired with new Ortega Street Taco Sauces, respond to consumer needs for more fun and bold flavors.

Health claims posting strong dollar growth for tortillas include high fiber (+45.7%), low/less or no sugar (+53.9%), and low or no carbs (+38.8%), according to IRI. Gluten-free claims also boosted dollar growth 48.8% for tortillas, as corn tortillas are a low-calorie, low-fat option.

“Gluten-free drives corn tortilla sales,” said Natalie Bacani-Gutierrez, managing director, Tortillas Inc., Las Vegas. “At Tortillas Inc., we have always prided ourselves on the fact that we keep our products as simple and natural as possible. We have taken steps to make sure we are able to keep up with the trends, producing organic and products free from preservatives.”

Pita/flatbread products with gluten-free claims posted the most dollar growth at 39.2% with heart claims (+38.2%), 100% natural (+27%), and no artificial preservatives (+23.8%) claims also seeing significant growth, according to IRI.

“Consumers are getting smarter all the time, and they pay attention to labels and certifications,” said Harry Toufayan, founder and chief executive officer of Toufayan Bakeries. “We are naturally vegan, and some of our products are organic, such as our pita and wraps. We hope to create more ‘all natural’ products this year.”

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