By Paolo von Schirach
August 4, 2013
WASHINGTON – For once there seems to be a positive connection between healthier eating habits practiced by a growing number of Americans, increased sales of chickpeas based hummus, and the opportunity for Virginia farmers to start growing a new variety of chickpeas instead of tobacco. It all started with the successful marketing of Sabra products (a joint venture between Israel’s Sabra and Pepsico) in the US market.
Hummus for America
As a result, more and more Americans have discovered hummus, a delicious Middle Eastern dip made with chickpeas. Sabra dips, along with other varieties produced by different brands such as Tribe, are becoming quite popular in America. While hummus sales volumes are still way behind salsa and other dips and snack foods, Sabra products are doing better, year after year.
Chickpeas will replace tobacco in Virginia
Well, now Sabra has established a new production plant in Virginia. The problem is that US chickpeas are grown mostly in the North West, creating thus a supply chain uncertainty. Indeed, it may be a problem for East Coast based Sabra to depend entirely on the reliable delivery from the West Coast of its most essential ingredient.
For this reason, the firm, (that now runs its main processing plant in Chesterfield County, Virginia), turned to crop specialists at the Virginia State University for help. There they connected with India born Dr. Harbans Bhardwaj. He started experimenting with different varieties of chickpeas that would grow well in Virginia’s more humid climate. Most importantly, he has to select a variety that will develop resistance against a nasty fungus that attacks chickpeas plants, potentially destroying entire crops.
If Dr. Bhardway will succeed, then many Virginia farmers will have a good opportunity to start planting chickpeas instead of tobacco, in order to supply the Sabra processing facility.
Health dietary habits spur good business
And here is the real story. Tobacco is bad for you, as it is the basic ingredient to make cigarettes. And cigarettes may kill you. Chickpeas instead are really good for you. This humble legume is packed with proteins, several phytonutrients and fiber.
The fact that Americans like hummus made with chickpeas represents a positive dietary change for a population that is in general addicted to unhealthy stuff. So, here is the happy picture. Americans develop a healthy eating habit. Sabra makes money selling hummus, and Virginia farmers will also make good money growing chickpeas, (instead of nasty tobacco), this way ensuring a reliable supply for the Sabra processing plant.