Tortilla and flatbread sales saw strong growth in the early stages of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as at-home cooking increased, and now that restaurants have reopened and consumers have returned to regular activities, the foodservice side has picked up.

“In 2021, restaurants came back, but not necessarily at the expense of at-home cooking,” explained Jim Kabbani, chief executive officer, Tortilla Industry Association. “What we’re seeing now is a situation where retail and at-home tortilla consumption remains strong, while foodservice has come back. And the additive result of those two trends is an overall increase in consumption.”

Total retail dollar sales for tortillas and flatbreads decreased slightly, falling 0.3% to just under $3.8 billion, according to IRI data for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 26, 2021. Tortilla sales fell 0.9% to approximately $3 billion, while flatbread sales rose 4.8% to $365 million. Most of the growth for tortillas and flatbreads was in the perimeter/fresh food area, with sales jumping 8% to roughly $256 million.

“That fresh area is only 7% of tortilla and flatbread sales, so it’s very small, but it’s growing faster than in aisle,” explained Melissa Altobelli, principal, client insights, dairy and bakery vertical, IRI. “That’s because a lot of self-serve areas are open now, and also consumers are going out and celebrating more, buying products for parties or holidays.”

Dollar sales for both categories grew in the last quarter while volume sales decreased, which Ms. Altobelli attributes to inflation. She expects this trend to continue into early 2022 before leveling out later in the year.

“Volume will probably continue to show decline due to inflation,” Ms. Altobelli said. “Higher prices mean people have to cut back, and increased consumer mobility means people are eating out more. But as we go back to restaurants and find other places to purchase these products, there will be a softening in volume decreases, too. We think by the end of 2022, tortillas and flatbreads will have returned to normal, pre-2019 rates of volume.”

This article is an excerpt from the March 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Tortillas & Flatbreads, click here.