Americans’ desire for new and more international flavor profiles —combined with our perennial wish to eat more healthfully —are driving big innovations in the premium flatbreads and crackers found in grocery deli departments. 

New for Paterson, NJ-based Kontos Foods is a line of flatbreads cooked — and shaped — in the traditional Indian tandoori style. The Rustics collection, as the line is named, features tandoori naan and fire-grilled artisan pizza crust, said Warren Stoll, Kontos’s marketing director.

Introduced this spring, the breads feature the teardrop shape characteristic of bread cooked in a tandoori oven. 

For years, Kontos has had a full line of naan breads. But while that line was particularly popular among customers of Indian descent, the new products are meant to appeal to a wider demographic — in addition to getting consumers’ attention with the teardrop shape. 

“Naan has been in our repertoire many years now, but the products haven’t necessarily carried the traditional shape of a bread cooked in a tandoor oven,” Stoll said. 

Another difference: the new products are larger, making them perfect for multiple uses that previous Indian flatbreads may not have been tailored for.

“They can be used to make pizza or sandwiches, they can be cut in strips for breadsticks, etc.”

The breads come two to a package, and each is 4.4. ounces. In large part because of the shape of the product inside, the pack really stands out on the retail shelf, Stoll said. The design of the packaging itself is also distinctive. 

“It’s more of the type of pack you see in Europe,” he said. “The top and bottom are sealed. You can peel a corner and reseal. It’s airtight. Most other breads, including our own, is plastic with a twist tie.”

With COVID, it’s been harder than usual to get the word out about the product, but it is available nationwide, Stoll said.

“The difficulty is getting appointments made, getting the word out. Many things are still being done with Zoom. It’s being presented wherever we can gain an audience, and response has been positive. Customers see it as something different, plus there’s the credibility we have from making flatbreads for over 35 years.”

Speaking of the pandemic, Stoll believes that the increase in the number and creativity of home cooking opportunities could generate lasting success for purveyors of high-quality flatbreads sold in grocery store delis and prepared food departments.

“People have gone to grocery stores more, they’ve gotten very creative in cooking and their cooking skills have increased,” he said. “People want to know more about how to cook Indian food and Greek food. People are getting more adventurous — making pizzas at home, for example —and I think those trends will continue. No at the same level of frequency or intensity, but I don’t think people will forget about being creative at home. A lot of people have enjoyed it.”

That interest in getting more creative in the kitchen was already under way before the pandemic, Stoll said. What has happened to Mexican food in the United States over the past three or four decades, for instance, is how starting to happen with other ethnic foods.

“Everyone has exposure to global food trends now,” he said.  “Thirty-five or 40 years ago, if you had Mexican food, it was authentic, probably a white-tablecloth restaurant. Now Mexican is everywhere. Greek food is exploding like that now. They’re popping up everywhere, and that’s not going away.”

And once pandemic restrictions are lifted, Stoll said, Americans will go back to their globe-hopping travel habits, exposing them to even more foreign cuisines that will eventually gain bigger footprints on the US food scene. 

Low-carb option from Toufayan

Ridgefield, NJ-based Toufayan Bakeries recently introduced a Smart Carb Smart Pocket, designed for consumers seeking a lower carbohydrate option, said Karen Toufayan, the company’s vice president of marketing and sales.

Toufayan Bakeries is also in the midst of designing better packaging options for its products, she added.

When it comes to industry trends, Toufayan Bakeries is tracking an increase in more ethnic bread options appearing on retail shelves, Toufayan said.

Answering that need, the company recently released an authentic tandoori product as a fit for consumers looking for these traditional bread options.

Demand for premium flatbreads sold in grocery deli departments is rising, thanks in large part to COVID, Toufayan said.

“Demand has increased as consumers have shifted to more at-home eating during the pandemic. They’re able to duplicate some of the flatbread menu items they had at their favorite restaurant with ease. “

To get the word out, Toufayan Bakeries shares flatbread recipe ideas on its website and social media platforms, including, most recently, on TikTok.

Real Food from the Ground Up adds purple carrots to plant-based cracker lineup 

The newest product from a leading plant-based snack maker is a premium carrot-based cracker sold in grocery delis and prepared foods sections.

Fairfield, NJ-based Real Food from the Ground Up’s Purple Carrot Crackers began shipping to Whole Foods Market and other retailers in May.

Purple Carrot is the newest veggie to the Real Food lineup and one that has been growing roots for a while. Just as crunchy and tasty as the orange version, it’s made with real purple carrot.

The crackers are Vegan, Non-GMO and Gluten Free Certified. The purple squares are baked into light and crispy crackers that consumers can feel good about eating, according to the company.

Flavors in the line include sea salt and ranch. A four-ounce box retails for a suggested $3.99.

“We’re excited about Purple Carrot joining Cauliflower and Butternut Squash vegetable bases for our growing snack brand,” said Deb Holt, Real Food’s chief marketing officer. “We love being able to offer plant-based versions of classic snacks and our Purple Carrot Crackers, a nod to the original orange squares, are as good as they look.”

Real Food from the Ground Up has been giving classic snacks a plant-based twist since its launch in 2018. The brand’s lineup includes Cauliflower-based versions of Crackers, Pretzels, Tortilla Chips, Stalks (puffed snacks), and most recently with Chips and Snacking Crackers.

In 2019 the company expanded with Butternut Squash-Based Crackers, Pretzels, Tortilla Chips and Stalks.