KANSAS CITY — While consumers may perceive flatbreads and tortillas as having fewer carbs than a typical slice of bread or a bun or roll, there is still a movement to see how low carb these products can get.

“Center-store tortilla and taco kit growth is being driven by Mission Foods, private label and Guerrero,” said Melissa Altobelli, senior vice president, client insights, dairy and bakery vertical, Circana. “Both Mission’s and Guerrero’s growth are from the launch of zero net carb sub-brands. Mission Carb Balance — 2 grams of net carbs — also continues to show growth.”

While these low-carb options are growing, she pointed out that regular and original tortillas and flatbread varieties still account for the majority of sales.

“I would expect continued expansion in BFY (better-for-you) options, which are driving growth in the tortilla category in particular,” she said.

Gruma brand Mission Foods debuted its Zero Net Carbs line in 2022 with original and sundried tomato basil and expanded it in 2023 with a sriracha ranch variety. For its Carb Balance portfolio, for the carb-conscious consumer, Gruma SAB de CV, Monterrey, Mexico, added a Chipotle fajita-sized tortilla with 1 gram of net carbs per serving and a flour burrito-sized tortilla with 4 grams of net carbs.

Other brands also have taken notice. Toufayan Bakeries, Ridgefield, NJ, launched its own keto-friendly pita, wraps and flatbread in 2022 and expanded distribution of that line in 2023.

“At Toufayan Bakeries, we are committed to staying ahead of consumer trends and providing great-tasting products that align with a wide variety of dietary preferences,” said Karen Toufayan, vice president of marketing at Toufayan Bakeries. “The popularity of the keto diet presented an exciting opportunity for us to meet the evolving needs of our consumers.”

While low carb and keto may be the health darlings of the moment, the definition of BFY extends beyond carbohydrates, even for a bakery product, which opens up a wealth of options for brands and formulators. In addition to keto-friendly options, Gruma’s Mission Foods brand has launched protein-enhanced tortillas that also deliver fiber. The brand also offers gluten-free tortillas that feature traditional corn, cauliflower base or a flour tortilla alternative.

Tia Lupita Foods, Tiburon, Calif., was founded as a hot sauce company to bring the hot sauce of founder Hector Saldivar’s mother to the United States. The company expanded into BFY tortillas with lower carb and calorie tortillas made from cactus flour.

The company also partnered with Renewal Mill to bring upcycled okara (soy pulp) flour into the formulation to go a step further and make the products more sustainable.

“Alternative flours like almond, coconut, chickpeas, cassava and, in our case, cactus flour are leading the charge to deliver grain-free alternatives,” said Jose Carillo, head of marketing, Tia Lupita Foods. “But there are also brands taking the approach of adding ingredients like turmeric, herbs and spinach to justify BFY claims. I think alternative flours are here to stay, and flavor innovation will continue, but I don’t see many of those products sticking around for too long.”

These alternatives may require education through packaging, marketing campaigns and even influencers on social media. The more products adopt these ingredients, however, the more staying power they can garner.

“BFY consumers are not afraid of trying new ingredients and products; they are adventurous,” Carillo said. “The challenge is that once they find a product they love, it is hard to make them switch. So, the learning curve is steep because there is a need to break existing habits, plus the higher price point of this type of product is also a barrier. The consumer thinks, ‘That sounds good, but it’s not cheap. What if I buy it and I don’t like it?’”