When it comes to flatbread, simple ingredients resonate with consumers, especially those following a health-and-wellness lifestyle or who are on a diet, and they are willing to spend more on products that help them achieve their goals.
“If they see themselves losing 5 lbs here and 10 lbs there, they will pay that $6.50 for a loaf of bread or a package of flatbreads because they’re feeling better and can fit in this suit or dress that they haven’t worn for 10 years,” observed Mike Timani, president and chief executive officer, Fancy Pokket, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Fancy Pokket specializes in flatbreads as well as gluten-free products. Mr.Timani reported that the company’s flatbread sales jumped 35% in 2021 over 2020 due to home cooking and a surge in retail sales during the pandemic. Then, its sales rose another 14% in 2022.
“Naan bread is definitely growing every year,” he said. “Consumers want items that are healthier for them and in smaller portions.”
He stressed that better-for-you (BFY) tortillas and flatbreads should not only match consumers’ taste expectations but also their functional attributes. They need to carry meat, cheese and other fillings without cracking, breaking and creating a mess.
“If you’re having a tortilla, and all of a sudden, all of the fillings end up falling on your plate, consumers get frustrated,” Mr. Timani pointed out. “They dislike it, and next time, they probably won’t buy it. You cannot go out and make items that are very healthy but are not able to hold their fillings so you can eat and enjoy it. You have to balance better for you and functionality in a product.”
Shelf life could be another potential issue with fresh and BFY products, so Fancy Pokket blast freezes its top-selling pitas and flatbreads.
The company also makes Paco branded tortillas using a process that prevents the products from sticking together, another turnoff to consumers.
Additionally, Mr. Timani noticed that thinner and smaller pitas and naan breads have become increasingly prevalent because they provide portion control, lower sodium and fewer carbs than their traditional counterparts.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn, NY-based Tacombi offers corn tortillas under the Vista Hermosa brand that are USDA-certified organic and flour varieties made with organic ingredients.
However, simplicity is the key to quality Mexican cuisine, according to Laura Merritt, president of Tacombi.
“We have only four ingredients in our corn tortillas and five in our flour varieties,” she said. “The wonderful thing is that truly authentic Mexican food is better for you. You think about how people define better for you, and it could be a small number of ingredients or organic ingredients or a craft process, and that is the authentic Mexican way of making food.”
The company, however, has tweaked the formula for traditional tortillas to ensure they’re vegan, which is highly regarded in natural food stores where the bulk of its products are sold.
“Our flour tortilla has a little bit of magic in that it has this very authentic taste and mouthfeel that you would get in Mexico from perhaps using pork lard, but our products are 100% vegan, and we’re using avocado oil to create that same mouth-feel,” Ms. Merritt explained.
Ozery Bakery, located just outside of Toronto, specializes in flatbread rounds that are kosher and free of artificial flavors, preservatives, additives and GMOs.
Most recently, however, the company has focused on a different side of the health-and-wellness debate that’s critical for many families.
“On our flatbread side, we’re seeing an increase in the number of food allergens developing in North America, so we decided to make a massive shift in our facility to remove two of the top allergens, sesame seeds and peanuts,” said Laura Morgan, director of marketing, Ozery Bakery. “We’re calling out that our products are now made in a peanut-free facility and are safe for schools, which is the lane we are focused on with our Snacking Rounds that are more kid-focused, smaller products.”
She added that all Ozery Bakery products contain wholesome ingredients, such as its Apple Cinnamon, Cranberry Orange and Muesli Morning Rounds or its Organic Wheat, Multi Grain or 100-Calorie Whole Wheat OneBun.
“People are swapping out the heavy traditional burger bun for the OneBun,” Ms. Morgan said. “We also have brioche buns and bites, which are plant-based and vegan. If you want something that’s more indulgent, you can go for our brioche, but we also offer the 100-calorie flatbread, which is popular for barbecue season.”
Some BFY baked goods are perceived as nutritious, but they haven’t passed the taste test to fit into Ozery Bakery’s portfolio.
“There has been a struggle from a taste profile perspective with cauli-flower. I don’t know that we’ve seen anything that nails it on the taste side. There’s still a demand for that balance of taste and health benefits,” Ms. Morgan said. “We want to have all the health benefits and attributes, but we want to make sure that taste is our priority. Consumers want everything. They want it to taste good, but they also want gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, low-sugar, low carbs. We’ve got to play with the flavor, and that hasn’t been quite nailed down on the cauliflower side yet.”
However, BFY can be interpreted in many ways, and that dynamic provides ample avenues for innovation.
“The interesting thing about the BFY movement is that it means something different to every consumer,” Ms. Merritt observed. “It’s definitely a personalized definition, and therefore, it does become niche very quickly. If you look at BFY in the broadest sense, it is simply clean label with as few ingredients as possible.”
This article is an excerpt from the April 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Tortillas & Flatbreads, click here.