Mediterranean Foods Moving Forward

Tom Gresham

This segment continues to make inroads, buoyed by mindful eaters.

Once a small niche, Mediterranean foods have grabbed a larger swath of the spotlight in the supermarket in recent years as American consumers become more familiar with the cuisines of the region. The result is a clear move forward for the category — with lots of room to grow.

“The Mediterranean foods segment has grown exponentially over the last 10 years,” says Karim Khalil, founder of Yaza, a Mediterranean-style dip company in Atlanta, GA.

Aimee Tsakirellis, executive vice president of marketing, Cedar’s Foods, Ward Hill, MA, says Mediterranean cuisine has increased in popularity in part due to the growing importance that consumers place on options that are both healthy and flavorful.

Warren Stoll, marketing director for Kontos Foods, Paterson, NJ, says the segment has also been bolstered by a widening interest in ethnic foods in general and “anything artisan.”

In supermarket delis, the Mediterranean foods segment is often well represented. Products range from traditional dips and spreads such as hummus, tzatziki, feta dip, labneh and baba ghanouj to Mediterranean-inspired salads such as tabouli and chickpea salad, as well as pitas and pita chips.

Stoll says consumers’ travel continues to play a role in their interest in different kinds of ethnic cuisine, including Mediterranean-style foods, and it’s not just when they travel abroad.

“They’ve been to other parts of our country and have experienced and seen foods from different cultures, and they find them delicious, so they come back home and they want that food,” says Stoll. “I get consumers who write to me all the time on our website who were in another state visiting a relative and they saw a product there and wanted to know is it for sale in the area where they live.”


The growing interest — and adoption — of the Mediterranean diet has provided a boost to producers of Mediterranean foods, helping to attract curious consumers. Khalil says the diet’s popularity “has directly influenced the rising demand for clean, authentic, fresh and nutritious products.”

“Now more than ever, people are carefully watching what goes into their bodies, and one of the easiest ways is to eat like Mediterranean people have been eating for centuries,” he says.

Tsakirellis says the Mediterranean diet’s rise “has a significant impact on this segment.”

“The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil, which are all key components of many Mediterranean dishes,” she says. “As a result, there’s been a growing interest in Mediterranean foods as a way to incorporate these healthy eating habits into everyday meals.”

Stoll notes the Mediterranean diet is one of the more appealing ones because it focuses not on “starving yourself but eating a lot of good stuff.”

With that in mind, those in the segment are creating products that lean into the appeal and benefits of the diet. For instance, Khalil says Yaza labneh — soft cheese with the consistency of yogurt — contains about 3 grams of protein per serving, 1.5 grams of healthy fats, lots of probiotics, and no added sugars, thickeners or preservatives. “In fact, our plain flavor only contains two ingredients: pasteurized cultured milk and salt,” says Khalil.

Similarly, Kontos offers a flatbread called Greek Lifestyle, which has a special blend of flour that is soy-based. Greek Lifestyle has half the carbohydrates as Kontos’ traditional flatbread and twice the protein. The product was originally called Carb Smart, but Kontos changed the name to Greek Lifestyle to tap into the widespread interest in the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

“When we repackaged and relaunched, it became our No. 1 selling item for a long period of time, and it was really all due to the fact that we tied it directly to that idea of the Greek lifestyle and making the correlation to the Mediterranean diet,” says Stoll.


Among the most prominent recent trends, Tsakirellis says there has been a transformation of staple ingredients in Mediterranean food such as labneh and feta into “fan-favorite” dips. For example, Cedar’s Foods now offers feta dips with flavors such as Spicy Roasted Red Pepper, Kalamata Olive and Garlic Chive.

“What makes these dips truly innovative is their unique blend of flavors that bring a taste of the Mediterranean to any occasion,” says Tsakirellis.

“Another trend is the application of widely popular flavor profiles, like hot honey, to traditional Mediterranean products, creating innovative and exciting new offerings,” she adds.

Eye-catching flavors can be an effective way of enticing new consumers to try traditional Mediterranean products. Khalil says that garlic and spicy flavors are newer to the Mediterranean foods segment and stand out as an ongoing trend.


Even with the interest in new, innovative takes on Mediterranean foods, Tsakirellis says, “there’s a focus on authenticity, with consumers seeking out products made with traditional recipes and high-quality ingredients.”

In marketing today, Tsakirellis sees an emphasis on authenticity and tradition.

“Consumers are looking for products that are true to their Mediterranean roots, made with authentic recipes and ingredients,” she says. “Brands that can convey this authenticity through their marketing, highlighting the heritage and craftsmanship behind their products, tend to resonate well with consumers.”

Khalil notes that the popularity of labneh, in particular, has grown “tremendously in the past year as the market for dips and spreads continues to surge.”

“We have seen that consumers value authenticity and the cleanest ingredients label with the fewest ingredients possible to provide an unparalleled flavorful experience,” says Khalil.

For Khalil, authenticity is integral to the success of the segment going forward.


Tsakirellis says sharing dip occasions and recipe application ideas on social media can help generate buzz and awareness of products and inspire new ways to use them.

Likewise, Khalil says social media “is the place to be, especially with a food like labneh, which is not yet widely known.”

Stoll says anytime you introduce a less familiar product to people, education is critical, but Mediterranean foods have the advantage of feeling familiar to American consumers even when they are new to them, making those products feel more accessible from the outset and helping the marketing process.

He says Kontos also has benefited from the growing popularity of foods that are handheld and can be eaten on-the-go, leading more consumers to gravitate toward the types of bread that Kontos has to offer, which includes pita breads, as well as a range of panini-style breads.

As with other segments beyond Mediterranean foods, Khalil says consumers are looking for sustainable packaging from providers.


Among the many positive signs for the Mediterranean foods segment, Stoll says restaurants with a variety of foods from the Mediterranean region, representing a range of countries and cuisines, are “popping up everywhere, and people are getting exposed to the food.”

“I see that continuing, and that’s very exciting,” he says.

That’s because the more people experience different kinds of restaurants, the more they will shop for that food at the supermarket and consume it at home.

“You don’t always see these kinds of foods in a supermarket until people become more and more familiar with them,” adds Stoll.

“As consumers continue to prioritize health and wellness, they will seek out Mediterranean foods for their nutritious and flavorful qualities,” says Tsakirellis. “I expect to see continued innovation in this segment, with new flavors, ingredients and products that cater to evolving consumer preferences.”


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