Once lonely pita joined by army of flatbread options
By Associated Press, January 2, 2008
Last updated: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 9:47 AM EST
In Mexico it’s a tortilla. In Ethiopia it’s injera. It’s naan in India and matzoh in Israel.
By whatever name you call it, flatbread is everywhere. And in the United States, it is a quickly rising part of the nearly $14 billion bread industry that is crowding shelves from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods.
Not bad for a product that can count its age in centuries.
“It’s a 2,000-year-old recipe,” says Mike Stimola, president of Sandella’s Flatbread, a cafe founded in 1994 in West Redding, Conn., that now has 125 locations. “It’s the original bread.”
It wasn’t long ago that the only flatbread found in most grocery stores were pita pockets and tortillas. Today, dozens of varieties compete with flavorings such as sun-dried tomato, different grains and shapes, even low-carb options.
In fact, flatbread has become so popular that new product launches in the U.S. went from 12 in 2005 to 51 in 2006, says Joanna Peot, spokeswoman for Chicago-based market research firm Mintel International Group.
Cookbook author Naomi Duguid isn’t surprised.
When she co-authored “Flatbreads & Flavors” in 1995, flatbread was still seen as something “a bit marginal” and ethnic, she says. But as chefs began to put flatbread in their bread baskets, it became far more common.
“Now you can go into any grocery store and there’s going to be a whole group of breads you could call flatbread,” she says. “We’ve moved from the conception that bread has to be a loaf.”
Healthy eating trends explain most of the growth, says Peot. And unlikely as it may seem, fast food chains have helped, with wraps and other flatbread sandwiches appearing on numerous menus, including Quiznos and Arby’s.
Versatility also helps, says Anissa Helou, a Lebanese baker who recently published a baking cookbook with many flatbread recipes. Americans are discovering that flatbreads work across cultures and eating styles.
“It’s all about the usage,” says Dan Malovany, editor of Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine. Flatbread makers are finding success marketing a whole menu for “grab-and-go” hungry shoppers, he says.
Flatbread handles a turkey sandwich as easily as a smear of hummus, baba ghanoush or other Middle Eastern spreads. It also works for numerous Hispanic dishes, and even as a base for the all-American pizza.
“It’s more than a backlash to Atkins,” Jim White, a partner in the Concord, Ontario-based FGF Brands, which makes Fabulous Flats Naan, says of the low-carb diet that caused consumers to shun loaf bread.
When FGF began shipping to the U.S. in 2006, it sold naan in about 200 stores. Now it’s available in more than 5,000 and is keeping up with orders for more than 1.5 million naan a week.
“Back in the ’70s and ’80s, the usual ethnic breads available to the masses were bagels or pita,” White says. “Today, however, there is huge interest in Indian foods. Anything Indian or Asian is hot.”
And at King Arthur Flour Co. in Norwich, Vt., introductory flatbread classes offered to the public became so popular that the company went from holding two a year in 2002 to teaching them every month.
The flour company even built a wood-fired oven in 2005 for use in the courses. “The simplicity of it appeals to many people,” says Susan Miller, director of the company’s Baking Education Center. “The classes always fill up.”
Alisa Rosenbaum is one of the many Americans fueling the flatbread industry growth. She says she realized she was hooked on the stuff when she made pizza with it nearly every day for a week.
“It really gives you options,” says Rosenbaum, a 27-year-old economics development consultant from Washington. “It really is like a comfort food, but you can do it in a healthy way.”
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Yamrott wrote on Feb 24, 2008 1:33 AM:
" Dear'Ethiopia'how refreshing to read your comment which sees beyond blind patriotism.In this day and age,telling the truth could land any one on a hot seat. He who is truthful may be the enemy of many.So be it!I thank you not for agreeing with me, but for being truthful.
As for Sol's and Mimi's comments,sometimes,one has to be silent to be heard.So,not that I could make head or tail of what they tried to say,I choose to respond to them with silence. "
Sol wrote on Feb 13, 2008 8:15 AM:
Please cool down and stop your ‘know all; judge all’ nonsense. None of the preceding comments denied the existence of other beautiful cultures or other flat breads or whatever. You are distorting people’s ideas to simply reflect your negativity. Just wait and see how the miracle seed “teff” is going conquer the cereal world. This is not patriotism! This is not missing the point of the original article. Today you are talking about the 80 percent iron; to day you are wondering about the low gluten content; today you are recommending it as an alternative to wheat or whatever; today the Dutch, not to mention the middle east, have decided to import it;.... Well, tomorrow your “intelligent” argument will render you ashamed.
By the way, I agree with the person who likened teff with mana. I don’t think we need a theology lesson to understand that.
Love and respect to all cultures! Thanks.
Ethiopia wrote on Feb 11, 2008 3:22 PM:
" I totally concur with Yamrott comments. Please read the article carefully first understand the authors perspective prior to start mumbling JUMBO, MAMBO. I have not seen any where in the article that the authors specified TEFF, WHEATE, SURGHOM or any specific ingredients. Which ever way you call it is FLAT bread, and the original Ethiopian Injera is made out of the grain called TEFF that has approximately 60 to 80 percent of Iron, while the one who is processed and sold in most of the Ethiopian stores are mixed with Flour which is high in carbohydrates and not healthy either. I am puzzled on how one comments Injera is God’s Manna, I believe you are loosing touch with the Bible, and I hope you don’t say you are the chosen people by God’s as well and provided you with the specific and unique staples. Why is so hard for most Ethiopians to acknowledge there are other beautiful culture, ideas, excellent foods and variety that makes the world different and colorful. "
memi wrote on Feb 4, 2008 8:12 PM:
" i dont what is wrong with yamirot.i think you may be the owner of yamirot injera and u afraid something.because your irelevant comment showes that there may be something .this is free.any one can say what he want.yes it is true all r the same flat breads.but the difference is how the owners of the flat breads make it.but i dont know why you writ such hammer words.if you want to be a teacher this is not a place for peoples who exadurate themselves or thought they r outstanding.go for nare. "
Dan wrote on Jan 18, 2008 9:12 AM:
" The sad thing is that many Ethiopians are nowadays preferring european breads than injera on grounds of nutritional benefits. They have forgotten that injera is the "mana" gift of God to Ethiopians. It is so healthful and healing. "
Yamrott wrote on Jan 18, 2008 2:41 AM:
" Mamush,for Pete's sake,
nobody is saying in the article that the Indian,the Mexican,the Ethiopian,the Israeli or the Arabic breads are the same.It requires but a puny gray matter in the skull to compute that each bread is made out of different ingredients that could be indigenous to their own country.Thus the taste,the texture,the color and what have you. The only common denominator here is that they are all flat.Hello!!!This article is pointing out that these flat breads are increasing in variety and that they are becoming popular. And please, stop saying Injera is better than the rest.For who? You? But of course, isn't it your stable food? Next time,make sure you first get the point in what you read and may be then you can attempt to write something intelligible.
Thought for food:Silence can be mistaken for wisdom.Try it. "
Mamush wrote on Jan 17, 2008 10:37 AM:
" I think what you find in mexico, india and other the so called spicy countries is completly different flatbread compared to Ethiopian one. I always find it difficult to explain. Go and taste it. I guarante you find it much better. For sure that 2000 years old... comes from Ethiopia. "
Yamrott wrote on Jan 7, 2008 2:30 AM:
" What in the world are "Ben","Sefa" and "elsha whatever" blubbering about? I am mortified by their irrelevant comments.Is it me or have they missed the whole point of the article? Please don't embarrass yourselves and go back to school.
Having said that, I would like to thank the Associated Press for introducing our stable bread,injera, to their readers.There is at least one Ethiopian Restaurant in many cities, in the USA and I encourage everyone to go and give it a try.Not only will you have the taste of scrumptious cuisine,but you will experience the rich Ethiopian culture portrayed by the indigenous ambiance and superb service.I promise you,you just try it once and you will go back for more. "
Ben wrote on Jan 5, 2008 3:32 PM:
" Amazingly, the mention of the Ethiopian Injera is just the intro without any explanation of the health benefits it affords the consumer. In fact, the spicy hot foods are also available in the Ethiopian variety as compared to the Indian ones. Please do not be afraid of mentioning this ancient country, Ethiopia, in anything you talk about with the exception of drought. It has a lot to offer mankind in much more of ways than one thinks of. Thanks! "
sefa wrote on Jan 5, 2008 1:19 PM:
" as we all know this times most of the world ,familier with the flat bread,most of the word made it from the flour of wheat.but in Ethiopia it is made from the grain which is very tiny found only in the country what we call it TEFF. and it has three types of colour,white,light white,and red.the latter which belived rich in iron.but most of the population prefer the first two types.but the miracle is the flour of this gaves a jelly stracture when it mixes with water out of the country.thats whay this dayes most of the countries people who lived out side ,made the injera(flat bread)from rice or wheat flour.it s (teff)is the tipical and cultural food of the country,grown in the highlands of ETHIOPIA.You can found injera every place of the country hotels. "
elshaday wrote on Jan 4, 2008 4:17 PM:
" thanks a lot for this opportunity.as the writer says this day's any one whatever gives its name it is flat bread.but one thing which the writer mention is it is 2k years since it is invented.but we Ethiopians got it from JISUS CHRIST by the time he blessed pair of flat bread nd fishes nd feed ol those peopl's.this shows that Ethiopians rules and regulatins are based on bible.Bible means God.And even the country follows tha calender starting from the birth of Jisus Crist which we celebrate crist-mas
or 2kth birthday of him.It is known that the country celebrated 4 months ago the millinium. "