American tobacco farmers are now trying to grow chickpeas to keep up with the increased demand for hummus. The Middle Eastern cuisine staple has increased in popularity with American consumers as they seek more-healthful snack options.
To keep up with the popularity boom, Sabra, a company that produces hummus in the United States, is trying to extend its reach. Chickpeas grown in the U.S. usually come from the Pacific Northwest. Sabra is hoping to increase production by also growing the crop in the South, specifically Virginia, by asking tobacco farmers to try growing it. “We need to establish the supply chain to meet our growing demand,” said Tulin Tuzel, Sabra’s chief technology officer in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. “We want to reduce the risk of bad weather or concentration in one region. If possible, we also want to expand the growing seasons.”
Crops of chickpeas aren’t the only area of interest for Sabra in Virginia. They also recently opened an R&D Facility there and plan to expand their manufacturing facility, an $86 million investment. The investment is likely to pay off, as the sales of “refrigerated flavored spreads,” the group hummus belongs to; saw an increase of 11% from last year and 25% from the year before.
The increase in hummus sales are due in large part to people seeking a healthy alternative to other snack options. Seeing this, Sabra launched its first national television campaign early this year. While having hummus as a readily available option in most grocery stores is a good thing, the increased demand is also driving up prices of both chickpeas and the spread made out of them and called for increased production, like that of tobacco farmers in Virginia. It is expected that this year a record number of chickpeas will be planted in the U.S.