Can Pepsi’s Hummus Trick Pull In New Buyers?

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You won’t find too many Americans fighting over the hummus dip at a Super Bowl party. But if Ronen Zohar, chief executive officer of PepsiCo Inc.’s (NYSE:PEP) Sabra Dipping Co. unit, has anything to say about it, that all could change soon.

Sabra is a joint venture between Pepsi and Israel’s Strauss Group Ltd, and Pepsi is now not only the world’s largest snack food maker but also a leading U.S. purveyor of hummus and other healthy dips.

Still, salsa sales are more than double those of flavored spreads like hummus, and Sabra has its work cut out for itself as the company attempts to crack the American snack food market with its Middle Eastern dip. One mention of the word “chickpea” could have its consumers flying out the door, and that’s why Sabra is employing different tactics. Its newly approved U.S. television commercial is encouraging people to “dip life to the fullest,” and features consumer dipping chips, veggies, and chicken wings into the garlicky concoction. Sabra will even be the National Football League’s official dips sponsor — an honor that will garner it significant advertising time and support from the NFL’s loyal fan base.

Americans are no doubt critical of what they pass through their lips as snack food, but as the trend to eat healthy amasses support, Sabra expects to see sales increase. Zohar maintains that the hardest and most crucial step of the hummus assimilation process is the first one: getting people to try it. He believes that the key to Sabra’s success comes in three steps: “First, get people to dip it. Next, get them to spread it, like on toast. The final step: hummus as a side dish, the way it’s eaten in the Middle East.” Zohar remains confident that the ascension of these steps could end in hummus expanding into a $700 to $800 million industry.

So what exactly is hummus? Don’t tell your picky eaters but the concoction is simply a combination of steamed chickpeas with a tahini paste that comes from shelled sesame seeds. Flavors range from Classic, to Chipotle, to Roasted Red Pepper, plus many more, and are mixed with different oils, juices, and garlic that allow the smooth-textured dip to appeal to any consumer’s palate — just as long as they try it.