When presented with ethnic foods, consumers have been somewhat hesitant to step outside of their culinary comfort zones. Thanks to a new foodie movement, average consumers are more interested in trying new flavors, foods and brands that not only bring a little bit of adventure into daily eating, but also enhance and improve their diets.

“Today’s consumers have a more sophisticated palate and are looking for a different and unique eating experience,” says Peter Thornfield, senior director of marketing for Mission Foods, Irving, Tex.

Mission Foods recently launched a new line of Artisan Style Tortillas, which come in Corn and Whole Wheat Blend, Multigrain and Flaxseed, Blue Corn Blend and Ancient Grains, the latter of which is made with a combination of whole grain wheat, amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff. Teff is defined as African whole grain, which is native to the arid lands of Ethiopia. Mission Foods recognizes that the best way to get consumers to try a new ethnic product is to blend it with their daily diets.

“Mission Artisan Style Tortillas were crafted for consumers looking to make flavorful and nutritious meals with ease,” says Thornfield. “The versatility of these tortillas is immeasurable and can cross ethnic food traditions.”

The fact that the Artisan Style Tortillas offer 33 g. of whole grains per serving and each tortilla is 100 calories or less is an added bonus for consumers who want to expand their palates and eat healthier.

Along with tacos, burritos and wraps, Mission Foods offers a variety of recipes using its tortillas for non-Mexican dishes, expanding the brand across multiple ethnic categories. Suggestions include using the Artisan Style Tortillas for Moo Shu chicken or topping them with hummus, tomatoes and olives for a meal with Middle Eastern flare.

Don Pancho Authentic Mexican Foods, Salem, Ore., also finds that consumers are incorporating its products into their everyday diets.

“I see a deeper, more fundamental way in which people are thinking about the food they eat and the effects food has on the body,” states Ricardo Baez, president. “I think we’re going through a food renaissance where folks are seeing fewer and better ingredients in the foods they eat.”

Baez’s company manufactures and distributes a variety of tortillas, wraps, chips and tostada shells in the Mexican food segment.  He says he sees an emerging trend of the fusion of tortillas with everyday foods as a way to reduce sodium, fats and calories in consumers’ diets.

“Because ethnic foods traditionally haven’t had to be frozen or pre-baked, there’s a higher emphasis on eating vegetables, legumes, bread and tortillas,” states Baez.

Don Pancho’s tortilla line includes a selection of wraps in Roma Tomato, Parmesan Cheese, Creamy Ranch and Wasabi, enabling consumers to infuse their usual lunchtime turkey wrap with a punch of flavor and spices.

“These new wraps not only have exotic new applications, but they have substantially reduced sodium, fats and lower calories,” states Baez.

The new wraps compliment the com-
pany’s existing line of wraps, which include Chipotle, Red Chipotle, Chile
Tomato, Spinach, Garlic Herb and
Tomato Basil options.

“Tortillas, for the most part, are associated with Mexican food,” Baez adds. “Through education and expanding the versatility of our products, we are able to show that our tortillas are simply a carrier of great food from around the world.”

The company also has added a new line of 100-calorie Ancient Grain Wraps, which Baez says is a fusion of corn and flour tortilla wraps and offer reduced sodium, calories and fat.

“Our latest products are in the category of better-for-you offerings using tortillas as a launching pad,” says Baez.

Don Pancho produces low-carb, high-fiber and gluten-free wraps for the specialty consumer. Baez states that ethnic food producers’ biggest opportunity in the category is to take newcomers to the products and provide them with ways they can incorporate the products into their daily diets.

Another company offering an ethnic addition to consumers’ daily fare is Tandoor Chef, Union, N.J., which specializes in Indian food offerings such as naan flatbread and frozen entrees and appetizers. Indian cuisine is becoming popular as consumers are familiarizing themselves with its flavor profiles and spices.

“To better communicate with, target and appeal to these consumers, our brand is trying to promote the cuisine and its flavor profiles as a category in general,” says Mike Ryan, vice president of sales and marketing at Tandoor Chef. “We know that many Americans are still unfamiliar with Indian food and Indian cuisine, so for us, driving consumer interest means educating consumers about not only the food, but about the culture, and then steering them toward our brand in the freezer case.”

Tandoor Chef’s Naan Pizzas are a new entry into the Indian food scene. The pizzas are endorsed by the American Vegetarian Association and come in Roasted Eggplant, Cilantro Pesto, Margherita and Spinach and Paneer Cheese, a mild Indian cheese pizza combined with spinach and spices over a hand-stretched authentic naan crust.

Tasty and healthy

The company’s biggest challenge is to create foods that not only appeal to the average consumer but also offer health benefits.

“Indian snacks are traditionally high in sodium,” states Ryan. “Tandoor Chef is a brand that actively uses [consumer trend] information to guide our recipe developments, making sure that they are very clean, without chemicals and [offer] the lowest amount of fat and sodium possible.”

Consumers’ natural predilection to finding healthier snacks and new ethnic flavors has had a great effect on the producers of Mediterranean foods, especially Grecian Delight Foods of Elk Grove Village, Ill.

“Consumer trends are exploding with global flavors, due in part to the growth of food shows on cable television and the remarkable way the internet enables us to travel without ever leaving our couches,” states Amy Fattori, marketing director. “Grecian Delight felt so strongly about the importance of global and ethnic bakery products, that we launched a brand dedicated to the category called One Republic flatbreads.”

The One Republic line includes naan, lavash, multigrain pita squares, White and Honey Wheat wraps and Foccacia Flats, Italian flatbreads made with olive oil and Mediterranean herbs.

“Ethnic flatbreads have exploded,” says Fattori. “Because flatbread is a relatively inexpensive component to a meal, this is an easy way for consumers…to play with ethnic trends like naan, lavash and other flatbreads in traditional ways such as sandwiches, pizza and bread baskets.”

One Republic offers a variety of pizza shells for consumers to choose from. The line comes in Multigrain, Traditional and Whole Wheat Oval Crusts and a rectangular Ultra Thin Crust shell. While authenticity is important, Grecian Delight keeps healthfulness in mind with all its products.

“From a health perspective, we’ve grown incrementally in our offerings for whole-grain flatbreads and reduced sodium flatbread options,” says Fattori. “One Republic flatbreads incorporates our company’s rich Mediterranean history and mixes it with contemporary influences from across the world to create extraordinary flatbread products.”

Greek flatbreads are definitely becoming more prominent on grocery store shelves.

“In 2011, we doubled our capacity for flatbreads, giving us the ability to produce flatbreads from five inches to 20 inches, as well as a variety of shapes and thicknesses,” states Howard Eirinberg, president of Kronos Foods, Glendale Heights, Ill. “Kronos’ continuing commitment to quality and innovation in manufacturing and new product developments such as our flatbread and pizza crust lines, have launched the company into remarkable new markets and many new customers.”

The company’s new flatbread pizza crusts come in six-, 12- and 16-in. rounds and are partially baked to ensure that the consumer gets a restaurant-quality crust when it comes out of their home ovens.

Kronos also offers a variety of sizes and shapes in its line of flatbreads. Each is created with the company’s special oil blend, giving the flatbreads the familiar Mediterranean flavor consumers are looking for.

“Kronos’ flatbread and flatbread pizza crusts can be used for a variety of snack and bakery applications including mini pizzas, shareable appetizers, bite-size appetizers and full-meal menu options,” says Eirinberg. “Capitalizing on the consumer’s desire for ethnic products, flatbread and flatbread pizza crusts provide versatility to help reinvigorate traditional snack and bakery options.”

Snacking has gone Mediterranean as well and consumers are turning to Mediterranean Snack Food Co., Boonton, N.J., to satisfy those crunchy cravings.

“We provide snacks that capture the essence of Mediterranean living,” says Lonnie Williard, vice president of marketing.

Williard attributes the mass consumption of her company’s crackers and chips to the fact that hummus is a fast-growing category in specialty food. Mediterranean Snack Food’s Hummuz Crispz will be launched later this year in an attempt to capture more of the market.

“With so much hummus flying off store shelves, there is a new demand for unique chips and crackers,” says Williard.

The Hummuz Crispz are made of garbanzo beans and will be available in Roasted Garlic, Olive Tapenade and Red Pepper options, a compliment to the regional palate.

“Like our other products rooted in ethnic food trends, these new snacks will be all-natural, non-(Genetically Modified Organisims) GMO and offer a real nutritious option for health conscious consumers,” states Williard.

Hummuz Crispz isn’t the only healthy cracker option the company is producing.  Mediterranean Snack Foods also is the manufacturer of Baked Lentil Chips.

“Baked Lentil Chips are essentially a healthier version of the classic pita chip,” says Vincent James, president and CEO. “Because of their lentil base, our products contain more fiber than their wheat, corn or potato-based counterparts.”

The non-GMO snack comes in Cucumber Dill, Cracked Pepper, Parmesan Garlic, Roasted Pepper, Rosemary and Sea Salt options. At 22 chips and 110 calories per serving, the Banked Lentil Chips are a healthful, fulfilling choice.

“Our products convey a pure natural crunching pleasure that consumers are really fond of,” says James.

Mediterranean Snack Foods continues the use of lentils as a main ingredient in its Lentil Crackers. Available in Sea Salt, Rosemary and Cracked Pepper options, each serving contains 5 g. of protein, 110 calories and only 3 g. of fat.  They are also gluten free, trans-fat free, and non-GMO.

 “Our sense is that legumes are the new grains, so we are very excited about the great tasting products we market,” says James. “Baked Lentil Chips and Lentil Crackers are made to be dipped and pair wonderfully with hummus, salsa or spread.”

Another company providing Mediterranean snacks is La Panzanella of Tukwila, Wash. La Panzanella’s line of Croccantini Crackers is popular with consumers looking to add a little bit of Italian zest to their daily meals.

“Our goal was to give consumers a premium product made of all-natural, quality ingredients and different from the ones you could find in the market,” states Antonio Galati, director of business development. “Our Croccantini have a unique, crisp texture [which is] where the name comes from – [it means] little crunchy bites in Italian.”

Utilizing an artisanal appearance and appealing packaging, the Croccantini Crackers come in Rosemary, Sesame, Fennel, Garlic, Black Pepper, Onion, Tomato/Oregano, Whole Wheat and Original varieties.

“They work well with cheese, dips and spreads as well as an accompaniment for soup, salads or simply as a bread substitute,” says Galati. “All our products are natural, low-fat [and] non-GMO.”

More and more consumers are looking in the specialty aisles of their local grocery stores to seek out unique flavors and ethnic options to enhance their everyday meals. Manufacturers will continue to produce authentic, healthful and flavorful options to meet the future demands.