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PepsiCo, Others Bet Hummus Can Be the Next Salsa

PepsiCo and other producers are betting it can become the next salsa
Sabra is the new official dip of the National Football League
Sabra is the new official dip of the National Football LeaguePhotograph by Paul Octavious for Bloomberg Businessweek

For most guys looking for a quick bite, salted snacks reign supreme. But Ronen Zohar wants man caves everywhere to give hummus a place of honor, right up there with salsa and beer. The chief executive officer of PepsiCo’s Sabra Dipping venture recently launched its first national television commercials. One instructs consumers to “dip life to the fullest” by dunking all-American staples—think chicken wings and potato chips—into the mashed chickpea paste. And Sabra soon will kick off as the National Football League’s official dips sponsor, putting the brand squarely in the sights of male fans for whom snacking is also a national pastime.

While the goal is to make the Middle Eastern dip accessible to Middle America, Zohar faces a lot of work to make it a fixture at Super Bowl parties. Annual U.S. salsa sales are about $1.1 billion, more than twice those of flavored spreads like hummus. Still, the spreads are growing at a 14 percent pace as Sabra and its main rivals, Nestlè’s part-owned Tribe and Kraft Foods Group’s Athenos, appeal to Americans’ desire to eat healthier. “Most of the people in the U.S. never tasted hummus,” the Israeli-born Zohar says. “You have to change their mind-set that even if the name is strange and the brown color of the hummus is not as appetizing, it tastes wonderful.”