America's hummus boom

U.S. tobacco farmers are digging up their crops for chickpeas? Here's why.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor on

You know when Virginia tobacco farmers pull up their crop in favor of chickpeas something big is happening in the market.

Hummus consumption is booming in the United States.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Long a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, hummus is earning a growing following among Americans seeking more-healthful snacks. The chickpea dip is low in fat and high in protein. Sales of "refrigerated flavored spreads"—a segment dominated by hummus—totaled $530 million at U.S. food retailers last year, up 11% from a year earlier and a 25% jump over 2010, according to market-research firm Information Resources Inc.

And major companies like PepsiCo. and Kraft are taking notice. PepsiCo bought a 50 percent share in Sabra in 2008 and Kraft owns Athenos, both major hummus-producing brands in the U.S.

For farmers in Virginia, where Sabra is pushing for more chickpea production, chickpeas -- the main ingredient in hummus -- are more of a winning bet than tobacco, which has seen production fall as cigarette sales have decreased. According to WSJ, last year was a record year for chickpea farmers whose 332 million pound crop (a 51 percent increase from 2011) was valued at $115.5 million. That's nowhere near the $63.9 billion brought in from corn. Still, chickpeas are on the rise, bringing in 10 cents more per pound compared with the mid-2000s -- the average price last year was 35 cents per pound.

And if farmers are any indication, the hummus obsession isn't going to let up anytime soon. A record 213,300 acres of chickpeas will be planted this year.

Hummus Is Conquering America [Wall Street Journal]

Photo: Flickr/Eat It Detroit

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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