Hummus: The yummy Middle Eastern invasion

“Even if the name is strange and the brown color of the hummus is not as appetizing, it tastes wonderful"

Topics: Hummus, Chickpeas, Food, Consumerism, Sports, , , ,

Hummus: The yummy Middle Eastern invasion Delicious? (Credit: Wikimedia)

In a region as divisive as the Middle East, hummus could be the closest thing to a unifying force.

But can a food with Arabic roots, and a main ingredient as wimpy sounding as the chickpea, conquer the macho domain of the American snack shelf? Pepsico-owned Sabra Dipping thinks so. The spread is about to be named the NFL’s “official dips sponsor,” Bloomberg reports. And a national television ad to debut shortly will be urging customers to “dip life to the fullest.” Cue the rippin’ guitar solo.

While the goal is to make a Middle Eastern dip comprehensible to middle America, [Sabra CEO Ronen] Zohar faces a lot of work to make it a regular part of Super Bowl parties and Fourth of July celebrations. Salsa sales are more than double those of flavored spreads like hummus. Still, those spreads are growing at a 14 percent pace as Sabra and its main competitors, Nestle SA (NESN)’s part-owned Tribe and Kraft Foods Group Inc (KRFT).’s Athenos, appeal to Americans’ desire to eat healthier.

“Most of the people in the U.S. never tasted hummus,” the Israeli-born Zohar said. “You have to change their mindset that even if the name is strange and the brown color of the hummus is not as appetizing, it tastes wonderful.”

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Zohar may be seriously underestimating the sophistication of the American palate, but he’s certainly going to be mashing chickpeas on an Americans scale:

Sabra is doubling what it says is already the world’s largest hummus plant, in Virgina, and is working with farmers to ensure a consistent U.S. chickpea supply. Contests centered on the NFL sponsorship will debut in the fall.

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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