At every housewares show there are products that stick in your mind, either because they are innovative or so interesting they are impossible to ignore. One such product was Flatev, a machine that makes fresh tortillas in less than a minute using pre-packed pods.
When founder Carlos Ruiz moved to Zurich, Switzerland for college, he missed the corn tortillas he grew up eating in Mexico. He was forever disappointed in the tortilla selection in restaurants and supermarkets in his new home country.
One day in 2010 Ruiz stood in front of his Nespresso coffee machine and it struck him: “I just thought, why not produce fresh flat bread with a pod system?” With that simple revelation, Flatev was born.
Having had the pleasure to meet so many company founders and product inventors, I’ve observed a frequent theme that future inventors & business owners didn’t set out to create the next big thing, they were just going about their normal lives. When the light bulb moment comes to them, usually associated with something they are passionate about, they jump on the opportunity.
Flatev has a simple concept: revolutionize the way people prepare fresh tortillas at home by taking a somewhat messy, time consuming process and automating it. Some people, like me, don’t mind working with flour to bake their own breads, but most people find the whole process intimidating. Flatev wanted to make a machine that would enable anyone to easily prepare high-quality flatbreads at any time, without any experience, while making it a fun sociable affair.
Their slogan is “fresh tortillas, at the touch of a button.”
From what I could tell, Flatev had a great experience at the International Home & Housewares Show and caught the eye of some major appliance manufacturers, like Jarden and Hamilton Beach. The show also provided them a great chance to meet with new found fans of Flatev and future distributors. They were one of the 20 companies – out of more than 2000 – invited to the VIP media event for innovative products.
I can personally say that the tortillas from the Flatev machine are delicious and taste hand made. But you don’t have to take my word for it, they also tested their tortillas against what are considered the best handmade tortillas in Chicago at La Casa de Samuel. The restaurant hosted a tortilla battle where Flatev was crowned for its accomplishments in taste, variety, and convenience.
After leaving the housewares show a bit road weary, the Flatev team flew south of the border and were able to have a lovely dinner with the former President and first lady of Mexico, Felipe Calderon and Margarita Zavala. Flatev reported that their honored hosts loved their tortillas and were excited about the future of Flatev.
As you can see in this video, people do love the tortillas:
Flatev Process Details
The process is simple; the machine breaks open the pod of dough, presses it, and cooks it. When it’s done, the tortilla is delivered to a tray at the bottom of the machine where you can keep them warm if you’re making several in succession.
The time you push the button to the time a freshly cooked tortilla appears is less than a minute.
The machine is about the same size as the average Keurig machine or large rice cooker, and the pods are about the same size as a Keurig coffee pod, maybe a bit bigger.
Speaking of the pods, the contents are pretty straight forward – dough.
– flour tortillas are made of flour, water, baking soda, and salt.
– corn tortillas are made of corn flour and water.
It’s important to the company that the tortillas are as natural as possible and as close to handmade as you can get. The corn tortillas do contain a little bit of lime, a traditional part of the process even if the tortillas are made in a hut. Stored in the refrigerator, the pods should last around 2 weeks and in the freezer, even longer.
As of this writing they’re targeting to have flour, corn and blue corn tortillas available. The machines are capable of producing a wide variety of flatbreads, including rotis, chapatis and more; after their initial release, Flatev is planning to expand to other markets and other flatbreads.
Flatev believes their product is something people would want to have in their homes, but also feel it has applications for food truck operators, caterers and restaurants.
Final retail pricing is still being worked out, but the machine is expected to cost under $300 and the pods are targeted to cost less than $1 each. How they price and position it will be key to its ultimate success.
They’re planning to sell the machine in traditional kitchen appliance outlets: department stores, premium kitchen stores, even big box stores and warehouse clubs. The pods will be available at grocery stores, or anywhere that can provide refrigerated displays.
The current plan is to have the machines available for retail purchase sometime in 2015, but that seems ambitious.
While they had an initial run of machines available, the demand was much higher than expected, and they are now queuing tortilla-lovers up for a relaunch. You can go to their website and enter your email to abreast of the latest news and reserve a machine.
I find the Flatev produces a delicious, hot, fresh tortilla in a convenient no-fuss way, however I have my reservations about the public readiness for such a product. No doubt someone said the same thing about Keurig oh so many years ago. Stay tuned.