US hummus category could break $1bn barrier in a few years

Eat Well Embrace Life: 'Suddenly beans went from boring to exciting... We want to be the Chobani of hummus'

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Eat Well Embrace Life: 'We want to be the Chobani of hummus'
US sales of hummus have almost doubled since 2009 to top $600m, but could easily break through the $1bn mark in the next few years, predicts Eat Well Embrace Life, which is carving out a leading role in the ‘other bean hummus’ category and aims to be the “Chobani of hummus”.

But is a product made from black beans, white beans, lentils, edamame, carrots or beetroot still ‘hummus’?

Sabra - the category leader - doesn’t think so, and recently filed a citizen’s petition​ to establish a standard of identity for hummus based on the traditional ingredients of chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste) - to which the FDA has yet to respond.

But Gil Oren (who co-founded Tryst Gourmet LLC in 2007 and created the Eat Well Embrace Life hummus brand in 2011 with hummus industry veterans Bob Ferraro and John Kincaid) begs to differ.

The category has stabilized in terms of innovation. We’re taking it to the next level

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) in Atlanta this week, Oren said EWEL was generating “strong double digit growth​”, ahead of the overall hummus category, which is growing pretty solidly.

He added: “The hummus category has really grown in the last few years, and toppings were a new addition, but the category has stabilized in terms of innovation. We’re taking it to the next level. We’re still using beans, oil and tahini, just different beans.

Gil Oren at FNCE hummus
Gil Oren: "The hummus category has stabilized in terms of innovation. We’re taking it to the next level."

“We have a passion for hummus and 20 years of experience in the industry ​[Oren and Ferraro are both ex-Sabra execs] but we want to do things a bit differently. Chefs are making hummus from all kinds of beans, so we thought, why not?  We see what Chobani did for Greek yogurt and we want to do the same for hummus.

“We started in 2011 with white beans and got an amazing response, then yellow lentils: we couldn’t really believe it, but Americans embraced them in about two seconds. We’re already #5 in the hummus category, which isn’t bad going in less than three years, and we think we cab at least double or triple sales in the next 2-3 years."

Some people are bored with regular hummus and want more variety

And the growth potential is huge, said Oren, who has just launched new snack packs (pictured) with crackers (fewer than 200 calories per pack) and says consumers want more options (recent additions to the range include Beet Hummus with Sunflower Seeds and Apricots; Zesty Sriracha Carrot Hummus; Spicy Red Lentil Chipotle; and Wasabi Edamame Hummus with Ginger).

 “Hummus is going really well, but some people are bored with regular hummus and want more variety.”

Retailers are also keen to work with brands such as EWEL because they are bringing new consumers into the category and adding incremental growth, he claimed.

People are having hummus as a dip or snack but also as a sandwich spread instead of mayo. Household penetration is growing fast, but there is still a lot of opportunity to increase it. It’s around 30% now ​[vs 16% in 2009]."

Beans used to be boring but now suddenly they are exciting

hummus pots fnce
Innovation in action: New snack pots

He added: “The protein and the nutrition is important ​[beans are a great source of protein, fiber and other nutrients], but also the taste, the texture, the colors and the flavors.”

Beans, meanwhile, are a hot trend in snacking and many other categories from salads to baked goods, he said, boosted by the success of brands such as Beanitos.

“Thanks in part to brands such as Beanitos, beans used to be a bit boring but now suddenly they are becoming very exciting.”


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