Tribe seeks to fill void in hummus category with a “clean” reformulation & new branding

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Tribe seeks to fill void in hummus category with a “clean” reformulation & new branding

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The current rollout of national hummus brand Tribe’s new packaging featuring more white space, simplistic designs and fewer claims reflects the manufacturer’s recent commitment to clean label, including a reformulation to remove artificial ingredients, according to a company executive.

“More people are reading labels and being much more interested in terms of what is in the product and what they are putting in their bodies and over the past five years, there has been a significant increase in interest from the consumer looking for things that are all natural, organic and have no artificial preservatives,”​ Alan Graham, vice president of marketing for Tribe Mediterranean Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.

At the same time, he said, “Tribe as a brand did not necessarily have its own point of difference, say a year and a half ago, and for us, based on the key consumer insights we found from our primary research that we did last year in 2017, we found that by removing any artificial preservatives from our hummus was a really huge positive from the standpoint of our core consumer,”​ and gave us a unique position in the category.

To better highlight this change, along with the previous switch to non-GMO canola oil in 2016, the brand wanted a more natural, fresh and authentic feel for is packaging, which New York branding agency Pause for Thought was able to quickly execute in less than nine months.

The most notable changes include a switch from a black background to a white one, which Graham said consumers reported liking more in part because it was easier to read without picking up the tubs. At the same time, he added, the company kept a black rim on its package because consumers reported associating it with the brand, along with the classic font used for the name Tribe.

The company further simplified the shopping experience by color-coding the different flavors of its hummus, as well as making it easier to read the flavor – and brand name – from the side of carton so that consumers can easily identify their favorite choices even if the retailer displays the tubs stacked, Graham said.

Pause for Thought also played up the brand’s tag, ‘Share Real Taste,’ next to the brand name to better associate the products, and company, with “the idea of community and emphasizing the great taste that comes from natural ingredients,”​ Tribe says in a release.

Instagram campaign helps build awareness

To support the rebranding, Tribe is launching “a strong digital communications plan,”​ which kicked off in September and will include a heavy presence on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, Graham said.

Instagram in particular will play a central role in the new campaign because “it is one of those platforms that is really nice, where food photography does quiet well, so unlike the packaging in terms of photograph, photos are quiet important for social media,”​ Graham said.

He added that this strategy also allows the brand to “be part of the conversation and talk with consumers on various social platforms”​ to learn more about what they like, don’t like and want to see more of.

Hummus category is starting to grow again

The reformulation and rebranding come at a time when the hummus category is starting to gain a momentum again after a series of recalls in 2015 caused it contract, Graham said.

“Hummus was growing at 15% back through 2015 and there was household growth and household penetration was rising, but then there were a couple of recalls that occurred in the category and that wasn’t good for any of the brands or the category as a whole. As a result, the category has been relatively flat until recently, when the category has begun to show growth again at least on the short term basis, which is good,”​ he said.

Unfortunately for national brands, some of that growth has switched to private label, which has increased quality in recent years while still maintaining a lower price point, he added.

Graham said Tribe’s rebranding should help it capture a larger share of the growth, but he added the brand is also trying to expand the brand’s attraction to consumers who are “outside of just the heavy user,”​ in order to boost household penetration up from its current 24%.

The company’s marketing campaign around the rebranding paired with bold new flavors and forms that suggest uses for hummus beyond just dip should help achieve this goal, Graham said.

He explained that two of the company’s new flavors launching in the next few months are smoky tomato and sea salt and vinegar, both of which should appeal to consumer desire for strong, bold flavors.

And while Graham wouldn’t share much about the new forms the company is explaining, he says they will focus on increase portability, which should help the brand enter into new distribution channels, such as food service, and increase exposure to consumers.

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