Fabulous Flatbreads

Flatbreads offer a world of tasteful opportunities for bakeries and cafes serving sandwiches and pizzas, whether it’s focaccia (Italy), lavash (Middle East), pita (Greece), naan (Asia) or tortillas (Mexico and Central and South America).

One example of the profitable potential of flatbreads can be found at The Flatbread Company, founded in 1998 in Amesbury, MA. This 10-store retailer specializes in flatbread pizzas made on fresh dough using 100% organically grown wheat that is milled into white flour with the wheat germ restored. The Flatbread Company promotes a local connection by relying heavily on local farms and producers.

Most of The Flatbread Company’s retail stores are in New England, but one shop is located on the Hawaiian island of Maui. This Pa’ia location features locally inspired flatbread pizzas such as free-range pork shoulder, organic mango barbecue sauce, Maui pineapple and a blend of Hawaiian goat cheeses.

The key to any successful flatbread offering is a unique blend of signature flavors that appeal to the local demand of the neighborhoods you serve. It is also worth noting that flatbreads aren’t just for pizzas and sandwiches.

Sometimes called American cracker bread, lavash is a versatile flatbread for dips or wraps and is thinner than pita bread. When baked, lavash is crispy and light — perfect for dipping or making thin-crust pizzas. It also comes in a soft version, and other applications include thinly rolled sandwiches. The Lavash Cafe in Columbus, OH, offers eight varieties of Middle Eastern sandwiches rolled in either lavash or pita bread.

Naan bread is slightly different in that it is typically baked until golden brown and puffed. It is lightly leavened by a natural yeast starter and is often baked in a tandoor oven, signified by a rounded top and made of brick and clay. The bread is baked over direct heat produced from a smoky fire.

Originating from a different part of the world, focaccia is Italian bread known for its large, flat shape. It is typically brushed or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Slits cut into the surface of the dough can be filled with fresh rosemary before the bread is baked.

Some bakeries are devising their own unique styles of flatbreads and leveraging the opportunity to sell their products on a national scale. Rudi’s Organic Bakery, headquartered in Boulder, CO, considers itself to be the nation’s largest brand of USDA-certified organic breads. The company recently introduced Rudi’s Organic Bakery Flatz, a nationally available organic line of sandwich rounds and bagels with 110 calories or less, and Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery Tortillas, available in three flavors.

“Our goal is to continue to offer new, healthy and wholesome products that our consumers have come to trust us to provide,” says Doug Radi, vice president of marketing for Rudi’s Organic Bakery. “We’re excited to expand our better-tasting gluten-free line, as well as offer our organic Flatz that are baked on the lighter side.”

The new line of Rudi’s Organic Bakery Flatz sandwich and bagel rounds offer a lighter option so bread lovers never have to choose between taste and nutrition. Four different varieties offer 3–5 g of fiber, and the sandwich Flatz and whole wheat bagel Flatz offer 23-25 g of whole grains per serving. Just like all other Rudi’s Organic products, Flatz are made free of artificial ingredients and are USDA Certified Organic. The following Flatz products can be found now in natural food stores and select mainstream supermarkets across the country:

Plain Bagel Flatz — Baked on the lighter side but with all the flavor of your Sunday morning favorite, these Bagel Flatz go just as perfectly with cream cheese and lox as they do with a light touch of organic jam.

100% Whole Wheat Bagel Flatz — The perfect addition to a well-rounded breakfast any day of the week, these Flatz are made with whole-grain wheat and wholesome ingredients you can recognize.

Multigrain Sandwich Flatz — Made with whole wheat, millet, spelt, corn, oats, flax seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Flatz — These tasty delights pair perfectly with everything from organic turkey and cheese to tuna salad or hummus and veggies.

Tortillas are another emerging growth category for the bakery business, driven by America’s growing Hispanic population.

Hispanics now comprise 16% of the US population and the US Census indicates the Hispanic population is expected to grow 34% from 2010 to 2020. The NPD Group, a leading market research company that has been tracking America’s eating behaviors for the past three decades, is finding that the growth of the US Hispanic population combined with their adherence to dining traditions is beginning to influence national consumption patterns.

One of the categories where Hispanics are influencing consumption patterns is at breakfast, according to NPD’s National Eating Trends Hispanic, which is a year-long study that captures the in-home and away-from-home food and beverage consumption habits of Hispanics in the US by level of acculturation. NET Hispanic reports that while non-Hispanics include non-toasted bread in 2% percent of their breakfast meals, 12% of Hispanics’ breakfasts include non-toasted bread.