The next scientific breakthrough in the hummus world isn’t likely to happen in Tel Aviv or Beirut but in a suburb of Richmond, Virginia. At least that is what Strauss Group is counting on as it dedicated on Tuesday a research and development center devoted to the science, production, engineering, packaging and delivery of the chickpea-based spread.
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Dubbed the Center of Excellence, the facility is being operated by Sabra Dipping Company, the joint venture between Israel’s Strauss and the U.S. food and drinks maker PepsiCo, and is adjacent to a manufacturing plant that has operated on the site since 2012.
While hummus is Sabra’s flagship dip, the center’s staff won’t be dedicating all their time to research on chickpeas but on all the other ingredients that go into Sabra’s line of prepared salads. The center will cooperate with local universities and agricultural research centers and will include a culinary center as well as laboratories.
“Opening the research and development center, the first of its kind in the world, is an important milestone for the Strauss Group in its partnership with Pepsico worldwide,” said Strauss CEO Gadi Lesin Tuesday. “It enhances our transformation into a leading international player both in the salads segment and in dips.”
Strauss acquired Sabra in 2005, when the company had just $24 million in sales. PepsiCo came in three years later when sales had reached $90 million, signaling the growing acceptance of hummus as a mainstream food in the U.S. Last year, Sabra posted revenue of $315 million and enjoyed a 60% market share.
A Wall Street Journal story on Tuesday headlined “Hummus Is Conquering America” confirmed the trend. The newspaper reported that farmers in the areas around Chesterfield County, Virginia, when the hummus research center is located, are experimenting with growing chickpeas in place of their traditional tobacco crop.
Strauss wants to encourage growers in Virginia in order to reduce its dependence on the main chickpea-growing region in the U.S. in the Pacific Northwest.