Is Kontos on your Plate?
Walk down a busy Manhattan street and you’re sure to pass a gyro cart advertising that they use only the best quality flatbread: Kontos®. But you don’t have to go to New York City to experience the authentic flavor of the Mediterranean. Just stop by your local grocery store, Sam’s Club, Costco or international market and indulge in Kontos (www.kontos.com) naans, flatbreads and desserts.
Evripides (Evris) Kontos (president and founder of Kontos Foods) began his career at a bakery in Cyprus, where he worked after school. This bakery made hand-stretched fillo dough and fillo products. He first thought of mass producing fillo when he noticed that bakery orders during the holiday season were hard to fulfill. At the age of 16, he left school and his job and with a loan from his uncle, he started his own business producing fillo for bakeries. Soon he was shipping to bakeries all over the island of Cyprus.
In 1949, Evris sold the fillo business and left Nicosia, Cyprus for the US. Kontos Foods, Inc. grew from the hard work that came from striving for the American dream. Using his own design for the first ever mass-production fillo machine, Evris delighted American taste buds by making fillo dough available in supermarkets across the US. In 1987, Evris established Kontos Foods, Inc.
Kontos started with a line of Pocket-Less Pita in traditional white and whole wheat, which was sold to gyro vendors, grocery stores, and club stores. They soon looked to identify unique varieties of flatbread and venture into new markets, which is when halal came into the picture.
Kontos also manufacturers halal gyro (pronounced “yi-ro”) cones for the food service industry. The meat in this Greek fast-food is 100 % ground beef and authentic spices on a cone base. The cone rotates and cooks rotisserie style at the restaurant, and fresh, cooked gyros are sliced off as needed.
Why did Kontos choose to pursue IFANCA halal certification for their flatbread, desserts and gyro cones for the food service industry? Chef Demetrios Haralambatos, Corporate Executive Chef for Kontos, explains: “First, a desire to enter into new markets with credibility. What I mean by credibility in the halal market is with a certifying agency that is widely accepted. Second, customers had requested that if the product was halal it would help them, our distributors. So it was twofold, a desire to expand our market and consumer requests.” Kontos took acceptance by consumers, distributors, and international issues into consideration when choosing IFANCA as their halal certifier. The IFANCA logo, a crescent-M, can be found on the label of all halal certified Kontos breads. According to Chef Demetrios, Kontos sales are soaring in Canada, Singapore, Japan, and the Caribbean due to halal certification, and they are looking to expand to Cambodia and Laos.
Today, Kontos manufactures 24 varieties of breads – all of them a hundred percent vegetarian, dozens of pastries, pizza crust, gyro bread, fillo dough and high quality Mediterranean hors d’oeuvres. For a new twist on dessert, try rich, creamy kataif made from vermicelli-like threaded pastry, filled with soft, creamy, mahlab scented cheese, and baked golden brown.
“Many people in the industry have referred to us as the Rolls Royce of Flatbread”, explains Chef Demetrios. Not only do Kontos breads carry a distinct taste, but their preparation is also appealing. “I would say the reason is all the flatbreads we manufacture are authentic, handmade, and using all our own recipes. We’ve brought flatbread to today’s standards using modern food technology.”
The products that most often come to mind when you think of Kontos may be the assortment of hand stretched breads. These are no typical breads by any means. Kontos manufactures naans to satisfy the Asian market, as well as the tastes of Palestine, Morocco, and Italy. Imagine the flavors of the Mediterranean, and Greek-inspired Olive Bread, with chopped Kalamata olives, onions, and spearmint and soon you’ll be rushing to your grocery store. Smooth, zesty Hummus Flatbread with Crushed Red Pepper tempts the taste buds. Made with chickpea flour, cumin, coriander and crushed red pepper, there is just enough tang in this flatbread to make it a regular in your bread box. The complex, distinctive flavors of Kontos bread will give your meals that something extra you’ve been looking for.
Chef Demetrios breaths excitement as he explains the complexity of flavor in his favorite, Massala Naan. “Although it is not overpoweringly hot, it has a nice clean overall flavor while not being spicy. If I were to eat something with the bread, like chicken, the bread wouldn’t overpower it,” he says.
Amongst all the variety, health conscious customers can reach for a pack of Kontos Multi-Grain Flatbread, a very flavorful, trans fat free, cholesterol free, Pocket-Less Pita, made with seven grains and seeds. Another alternative for those watching their waist lines is the Kontos SmartCarb Pita which has fewer carbohydrates than traditional Pocket-Less Pita.
Kontos started selling gyros cones in 2006, so it’s a relatively new move for the company. The product was introduced last year to six intermediate sized distributors, who dealt with ethnic populations, and 44 restaurants. They sold 350,000 lbs of halal gyro meat last year alone.
Kontos chose to expand into offering halal gyro cones for the food service industry because, “[it was an] untapped market and that’s why we went into selling gyros cones. There was a need and someone had to fill the need,” says Chef Demetrios. “Kontos has been known to produce high quality products whether we make it or have someone make it for us. Kontos inspects the plants and ensures they’re using proper GMPs and HACCPs and makes sure they’re doing it correctly and that the end product is wholesome and pure. One of our specifications is that IFANCA is the certifier of the gyros cones. [We] first came out with bread for the South Central Asian and Mediterranean markets because there was a need for it. This (gyro meat) was the accompanying product. Gyros are a processed product, and this is something we can have control over as not many people are doing this.” If a distributor or restaurant is interested in Kontos gyros cones, they can contact Kontos customer service.
Chef Demetrios’ favorite pastry is Mediterranean Nut Rolls or Saraagli-Flogeres. “The classic name is Saraagli. We call this the Nut Roll in the American market. To describe it, it is the classic Baklava, but instead of layers of tissue thin dough, buttered with walnuts and saturated in honey, it is rolled on a stick and baked with honey. I enjoy it primarily because it is a different shape. But is also something you can eat and serve at a Vietnamese table as well as in a [formal setting]. A regular baklava is clumsy in an elegant situation. With Saraagli, you can impress.” A perfect fit for dinner, lunch or your next gathering!