It used to be so simple. Mexican food producers cranked out tortillas. Greek, Israeli and other Mediterranean food manufacturers made pitas. Italian companies created pizza bread. Indian cuisine included Naan bread. It was almost as straightforward as an ethnic bloodline.

Today, however, the world of flatbreads has become increasingly complex as consumers seek new shapes, sizes and flavors to add a twist to conventional ethnic fare.

That’s why Grecian Delight Foods has expanded beyond its roots of producing pitas and began rolling out lavash, Naan, pizza bread, flat sandwich buns and hybrids of other artisan flatbreads to add innovation to the sandwich or pizza category and flair to the dinner eating occasion.

“Consumers are looking for different types of carriers,” notes Peter Parthenis, Jr., president and CEO of the Elk Grove Ill.-based producer of pizza, gyros and other Grecian specialties. “I think tortillas are wonderful. It’s a huge category, and it’s something that I’d like to get into some time in the future. I just think consumers are getting a little tired of them and are looking for something different, something a bit more global, something a bit more specialty or something that has more of a nutritional benefit for them. Flatbreads can do that because you can inject a lot of different ingredients that meet some of the needs of these healthy-conscious individuals.”

Grecian Delight Foods plans to open a new 130,000-sq-ft. bakery in Elk Grove Village early next year to add capacity for its expanding line of flatbreads, wraps and pocket breads. Baking will continue at the company’s current location, also in Elk Grove Village.

Although it primarily serves the foodservice channel, Parthenis says, Grecian Delight Foods plan to aggressively target retailers, private label producers and other channels of distribution that it hadn’t served previously.

“We also believe with the pipeline of opportunities that we have in place, within the next three to five years, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to close what we’re working on around specialty flatbreads,” he explains. “You talk about Naan, you talk about lavash, you talk about pizza crusts and other forms of flatbreads, and that’s where we’re moving. There are a lot of customers who we are talking to that have indicated strong interest for us to become a supplier or copacker.”

Parthenis adds that advances in technology, and specifically the versatility of production lines, have allowed pita and tortilla producers to diversify their product lines with minimal capital investments. Bakers now can use wheel cutters, sheeters, cross rollers and other modular systems in and out of these lines to create new products with minimal changeover times, he adds.

“Pizza crusts and pizza shells are something that have become part of our portfolio and something that we’re focusing on when you talk about product versatility on a manufacturing line,” he says. “The lines we have and the new line will allow us to produce all of those products as well.”

In addition to housing a flatbread production line, the new bakery will support Grecian Delight’s distribution company whose lease comes up in December.

The move to expand its bakery presence coincides with the 35th anniversary of the family-owned company, which was founded by Peter Parthenis, Sr., and produces a variety of Mediterranean and ethnic-inspired foods.

“Grecian Delight Foods has been on a steady growth path since the business started in 1974,” Parthenis says. “We’ve added new product lines and capacity in every decade. This is an appropriate time to thank our customers and partners, recognize our employees and look forward to the decades ahead. Our new baking facility is a testament to the continuing evolution of our brand and our commitment to a very bright future.”
 
Today, the company offers more than 300 artisan flatbreads, signature sauces and spreads, specialty meats, cheeses, appetizers, main dishes and desserts. While the majority of sales are to the foodservice industry, the company has a strong retail grocery store presence with their Opaa! brand of spreads, sauces and gyro sandwich products.