Tortillas and flatbreads are perceived by many consumers as healthier than traditional breads, despite the fact they are often higher in calories, salt and fat when compared side by side. At the same time, consumers are getting savvier — examining their product labels to better understand what they’re eating and what’s perceived as healthy. Consumer demand for gluten-free, vegan and low-carb tortillas and flatbreads has increased as a result.

In response, bakeries are introducing products that meet these demands and maintain the category’s healthy halo. Toufayan Bakeries has seen great success with its healthy offerings.

“Our gluten-free tortilla wrap is our No. 1 seller online, and a very close second is our whole wheat pita bread,” said Karen Toufayan, vice president of marketing and sales, Toufayan Bakeries, Ridgefield, NJ. “The biggest trends are Smart Grain and low carb, no doubt.”

The bakery also offers low-carb Smart Pockets, which Ms. Toufayan describes as a conventional American version of a pita bread, made with sprouted grains like their low-carb wrap.

Mission Foods, Irving, Texas, also offers “Carb Balance” tortillas that come in flour, whole wheat, spinach herb and sundried tomato basil. The tortillas earn an excellent source of fiber claim and have as little as 3 grams of net carbs. The popular line increased its sales by 26.9% in the latest period to $307.4 million, according to IRI. Gruma SAB de CV, Monterrey, Mexico, which owns Mission Foods, said it plans to introduce more of these healthier products.

“The client base we have been able to build for our better-for-you line has enabled us to create some stable levels of growth for these products, which is part of our strategy to increase their composition in the portfolio from single digits to 25% currently,” said Adolfo Fritz, Gruma’s investor relations officer in an earnings call last October. “Our plan is to keep on pushing forward to further expand the composition with these products, making our portfolio even more profitable over time.”

Flour and corn varieties still dominate the tortilla category, but producers are now offering healthier grain-free alternatives.  

Mission recently expanded its better-for-you line with almond flour and cauliflower tortillas that are gluten-free and vegan friendly. And Siete Family Foods, Austin, Texas, which grew its dollar sales by 54.5% in 2021, also offers almond, chickpea and cassava flour tortillas.

Flatbreads have been a bit slower to the grain-free and vegan space, noted Jim Kabbani, chief executive officer, Tortilla Industry Association. But this is beginning to change. For example, Trader Joe’s now offers a cauliflower thin, a flatbread cauliflower substitute that’s gluten-free.

Toufayan Bakeries is also paving the way with its better-for-you flatbreads.

“All of our flatbreads are naturally vegan. We’re pretty much the only vegan naan bread that’s out in the marketplace, in addition to our naturally vegan wraps, pita breads and tandoori,” Ms. Toufayan said. “We certainly check off the box for a demand, and there is a demand for plant-based foods.”

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