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Middle Eastern Dip Has Become an American Staple

Update Date: May 04, 2013 12:03 PM EDT

Americans have welcomed hummus, a Middle Eastern dip made mainly from chickpeas, with open arms. The soar in the market for this food dip has prompted big name companies to find ways of expanding the supply of chickpeas. The largest bulk of chickpeas used to make hummus comes from the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and now, certain companies want to expand the cultivation of chickpeas. Sabra Dipping Co., which is a joint venture of PepsiCo Inc. and Israeli company, Strauss Group Ltd., announced that it plans on finding ways to grow chickpeas in Virginia so that the company's dependence on these legumes will no longer be limited to the one region.

According to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), which is a market research company, the sales of refrigerated flavored spreads equaled $530 million last year. This increase in sales marked an 11 percent jump from the previous year and a 25 percent jump since 2010. The rapidly growing market for this healthier option, since hummus is high in protein and low in fat, makes cultivation of chickpeas vital. Sabra Dipping Co. currently manufactures its famous hummus dip in a plant near Richmond, VA. The company believes that if it can successfully grow chickpeas within this state, it would cut shipping costs as well as protect the industry from the possibility of a shortage if Washington or Idaho experience crop failures.

"We need to establish the supply chain to meet our growing demand," Tulin Tuzel, Sabra's chief technology officer stated. "We want to reduce the risk of bad weather or concentration in one region. If possible, we also want to expand the growing seasons." However, experts have expressed their concerns over Virginia's high summer humidity, which would make cultivating this crop difficult.

Sabra plans on announcing the expansion of its Virginia plant due to the growing demands of the product. The expansion will cost the company $86 million and will add around 140 jobs on top of its current 360 positions. Although Sabra does not reveal its financial statistics, the IRI estimated that hummus sales were around $315 million last year. The cultivation of chickpeas will also expand. Based from the sales and numbers, U.S. farmers might plant a record of 214,300 acres of chickpeas, which would be a three percent rise from last year. The growing demand and popularity of this product will hopefully continue to drive the market for it. 

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