Tortilla Trends

Best of All Worlds

April 1, 2011
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When it comes to tortillas and flatbreads, different is the same. While one type of tortilla may contain extra fiber or be a good source of whole grains, at the end of the day, it’s still just a tortilla.

For many of today’s ingredient suppliers, however, tortillas and flatbreads don’t have to carry the same ‘ole/same ‘ole attributes. In fact, a tortilla can deliver gluten-free ingredients and promote a longer shelf life all at the same time. Meanwhile, flatbreads can offer a multitude of spices and all-natural ingredients but also pride on form, functionality and texture.

Some would say that these attributes offer up the best of both worlds.

“Tortillas have become mainstream and are a viable alternative to traditional bread,” says Ann Rolow, business manager, North America, for Kemin Food Technologies. “When we look at the bread aisle, we no longer see white sandwich bread. Instead, we see a massive variety of whole grain, good-for-you, tasty options. This is also the direction the tortilla needs to follow, to maintain its status in this food category.”

In order to compete with the bread aisle, tortillas and flatbreads need to offer the same shelf appeal, so-to-speak.

That’s why Des Moines, Iowa-based Kemin introduced FORTIUM, a line that takes shelf life one step further by protecting the color and flavor of fresh-baked tortillas.

 “One of the challenges with the usage of whole grains is the development of off flavor due to the natural oils contained in the germ,” Rolow says. “When the grain is cracked or ground, these oils are prone to oxidation, which changes the flavor characteristics of the tortilla over time. The addition of FORTIUM to the freshly ground grains or to the tortilla formulation will extend shelf life and prevent the development of the bitter off-flavors.”

Kemin also launched FORTIUM TR30, a unique blend of natural and plant-derived ingredients that delay oxidation to maintain color in paprika and red-colored spice blends.

“The use of whole grains has become mainstream for a healthy life, and color adds variety and appeal to chips and wraps,” Rolow adds. “Our products offer a natural means to protect the nutritional qualities, flavor and visual appeal formulated into tortillas.”

For its part, Caravan Ingredients developed Tortilla Suave, a conditioner that combines the latest in extended shelf life and anti-sticking technology to create high-quality tortillas.

“Conventional flour tortillas require a significant shelf life while still maintaining functionality for retail and foodservice. Producers need a soft and pliable tortilla that has great flexibility and anti-sticking capabilities. These functional requirements of a finished tortilla have become a real point of differentiation between the manufacturers of these products,” says Nick Scheurer, tortilla and flatbread products manager for the Lenexa, Kan., company. “Tortilla Suave, for example, provides anti-sticking capabilities while also providing softness and flexibility attributes in the finished product.”

Clabber Girl Corp., Terra Haute, Ind., is helping tortilla manufacturers extend the shelf life of their products with Innovaphase, a two-phase encapsulated Fumaric that helps provide better pH control throughout the shelf life of the product.

“Tortilla manufacturers have a need to create new products to keep up with trends. They need no- and low-sodium solutions. They are being challenged to develop good shelf-life products, for example, and gluten-free products. What we’re helping to provide there is better pH control,” says Lou Fahey, national sales manager for the industrial sales division.

The two-phase system allows some needed leavening during the mixing phase, Fahey says, while the second phase activates in an oven, augmenting added preservatives for longer shelf life and improved product performance. “A tortilla manufacturer works on a slim margin, so it’s not willing to sacrifice taste and cost,” he adds.

Cain Food Industries, Inc. also provides solutions in relation to the extended shelf-life trend with CFI-10 Powder, a dough conditioner that enhances texture and resiliency of the tortilla, thus extending its shelf life, says Wilfredo Rivera, regional sales manager for the Dallas-based company.

With regards to flatbreads, he adds, Cain offers FBDC P37, which is designed to mellow and relax the dough for superior machinability while promoting moisture retention, resulting in a softer, more flexible flatbread.

“In the baking industry, we continue to experience micro trends. Some consumers want healthier products like reduced salt and sugar, while others want a variety of flavors, for instance corn tortillas versus flour tortillas. That’s right, a flour-based tortilla made with corn. Its products like these that benefit from strengthener such as N’hance Ultra, which allows these products to deliver great taste and superior performance to enhance our culinary experience when dining out,” Rivera adds.

Cain also produces Tortilla BASE K, which is a balanced base specifically formulated for the production of flour tortillas.

“The free-flowing powder is easy to scale and use. Formulated to combine with wheat flour, water and shortening, Tortilla BASE K reduces mix times resulting in a mellow and relaxed dough,” he notes. “By adding Tortilla BASE K, you will decrease dough elasticity to improve rounding and pressing and reduce shrink back and curling of your edges. During processing and packaging, Tortilla BASE K reduces sticking and allows for ease of separation of the finished product. The resulting product has a desirable appearance and outstanding eating qualities.”

Additionally, Thymly Products, Inc., Colora, Md., has been working to extend the shelf life of corn and flour tortillas through the use of its gums and starches, says Trey Muller-Thym, sales.

“We have found that both products tend to have a greater shelf life when you combine multiple gums and starches, giving a synergistic affect that might not be seen when using just one,” he adds. “The other positive side that is quickly noticed by our customers is they actually can use less, which reduces their bowl cost. We feel that these combinations will grow in popularity as we continue to see gum prices rises.”

AB Mauri Fleischmann’s, Chesterfield, Mo., also provides extended shelf-life solutions.

“Tortilla and flatbread manufacturers are turning to AB Mauri Fleischmann’s to improve the current quality of their products and expand product offerings,” says E.B. Russell, technology development manager for the AB Mauri Baking Technology Group. “We offer bakery ingredients that improve the shelf life through anti-staling technologies and preservation systems, as well as meeting consumer demands for healthier (low-fat, low-sodium, high-fiber and natural) products. Utilizing the entire AB Mauri Fleischmann’s product line enables a tortilla or flatbread manufacturer to create new products and improve the quality of their current ones.”

 

Form and function

In addition to a longer shelf life, today’s tortillas and flatbreads need to provide function and formality fused with an authentic, high-quality appeal.

That’s why Ventura Foods developed NTrans, a no-trans, clean, simple solution that is lower in saturates and acts as a highly functional product shortening.

“The issue is always safety, healthier, natural and cleaner labels,” says Frank Stynes, senior vice president of the Brea, Calif., company. “Our NTrans is labeled as soybean oil and emulsifiers. That’s all.”

Likewise, a number of bakers and food manufacturers are looking for ways to create high-quality, great-tasting, gluten-free products, says Brook Carson, technical products and market development manager for ADM. That’s why the Decatur, Ill., company developed Harvest Pearl, a white or white whole grain sorghum flour that’s designed specifically for gluten-free flour tortillas.

“Harvest Pearl white sorghum flour is a gluten-free flour that provides a neutral flavor profile, light color and fine granulation—all important when trying to develop gluten-free products that mimic traditional wheat-containing products,” Carson adds.

Additionally, its Prolite wheat protein isolates are created as a clean-label ingredient that improves sheeting and masks the bitterness of whole grains in tortillas and flatbreads.

 “Tortilla and flatbread producers use Prolite to improve machinability and flavor of whole grain products,” Carson notes. “Sorghum flour can be used as a primary flour source to help minimize costs of creating gluten-free products. Several components are required to replace the functionality of wheat, and sorghum can be an important factor.”

Meanwhile, Allied Blending & Ingredients, Inc. (ABI), Keokuk, Iowa, offers up function in the form of a BatchPak, which is a compilation of customized, functional ingredient formulations that meet consumer demands for nutritionally-enhanced products, such as extended shelf life, low sodium, heart healthy and clean-label products.

“ABI identifies specific functional ingredients and assembles them together in our BatchPak format so that the customer does not have to inventory each ingredient,” says Randy Schmelzel, president. “The BatchPak provides consistency of use on a batch-to-batch basis, and the customer is relieved of researching and testing each ingredient for their unique application. The BatchPak accomplishes that for them.”

At the end of the day, the explosion of the tortilla and flatbread market continues to garner additional opportunities to develop premium products.

“With the proliferation of wraps being added to menus across quick-serve and casual-serve restaurants, their appeal will only increase,” says Marge O’Brien, insight manager for Caravan Ingredients. “Flatbreads offer a better-for-you, versatile option and we see many variations in the marketplace ranging from hemp seed to gluten-free, vegan to whole grains, as well as lower sodium product offerings.”

Tortillas and flatbreads may be just that—tortillas and flatbreads—but at least now, they offer the best of all worlds.  SF&WB

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