Tortillas. Image credit: Stacey Spensley on Flickr (CC)

As food cultures blend into a culinary melting pot, staples such as savory tortillas have become a frequent fixture in homes, regardless of their heritage. A $4 billion business, tortillas are generally purchased at a supermarket, bakery or ethnic grocer as most home cooks lack the skill and equipment to create warm, soft pillows of corn or flour flatbread.

Flatev, a Startup Showcase finalist at the 2016 Smart Kitchen Summit, believes it has the solution that can make anyone an expert tortilla maker. With its U.S. office based in Brooklyn, the company raised more than $136,000 on Kickstarter to bring its tortilla-making machine, known as an artisanal bakery, to life. Flatev (which means flatbread evolution) uses single-serving, pre-packaged dough to make individual tortillas. The dough is put into a compartment on the front of the appliance; a setting for doneness is selected and the corn or flour tortilla is created. The machine also is capable of making roti and cookies.

According to the company’s Kickstarter page, there were two prototypes and a proof of concept machine built before the final version in 2016. Based on rewards offered to backers, the Kickstarter retail price was set at $437 and is expected to ship in 2018. The company is accepting reservations from new customers with no final retail price listed. However, Flatev says the final price will fall between $399 and $599. The dough packages are expected to retail at 79 cents each.

Company founder, CEO and Chairman Carlos Ruiz sees a place in the market for Flatev as consumers strive to eat healthier without compromising convenience and taste.  “There are very few bakery options that recreate successfully the homemade flavor and taste of authentic ethnic flatbreads without compromises,” says Ruiz. “Busy and time challenged people make compromises in quality, freshness, and nutrition every day, especially at work or away from home.”

Ruiz adds that the Flaetv needs to be thought more of a home, artisanal bakery than just a machine that makes tortillas. “Flatev is more than a tortilla maker. Currently our Artisanal Baking System can bake Flatev tortillas, specialty cookies and crepe with different flavors. Our system is designed to add more varieties and create new doughs with future ingredient trends as the market dictates.”

As with some other new, tech-based kitchen appliances, Flatev uses a closed system which means customers cannot create their own dough to make their own baked goods. Ruiz says the packaging and recipe are built to “achieve the quality, safety and shelf life desired. This implicates that we have to control the amounts of every ingredient, including the water quality (hardness, temperature, etc.).”

When Flatev hits the market, it will not only fulfill orders to Kickstarter backers and those who reserve units. The intent is to also tackle the B2B space in the form of hospitality customers. The thought of fresh tortillas at a typical hotel breakfast buffet could be enough to have guests set their alarms to avoid missing out.

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Allen Weiner is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on applications of new technology in the areas of food, media and education. In his 17-year career as a vice president and analyst with Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT research and advisory firm, Allen was a frequent speaker at company and industry events as well as one of the most-quoted analysts in the area of new media. With an extensive background in publishing and publishing technology, Allen is noted as the founder of The Gate (sfgate.com), the nation’s first daily newspaper on the web. Born in Philadelphia, Allen is a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Temple University.