Sabra’s Half-Billion-Dollar Hummus Empire Grew One Dip at a Time

Sabra’s Half-Billion-Dollar Hummus Empire Grew One Dip at a Time

Sabra is a revolutionary brand that popularized hummus in the US. As of early 2016, Sabra owned more than 60% share in the US hummus market that it created, representing half a billion dollars in sales. Its full line of products are carried in grocery stores and with food vendors across the country, and the brand is responsible for many stores featuring hummus sections that didn’t exist five years ago.

Now co-owned by PepsiCo and Strauss, Sabra was launched in 1986. Although the product was popular with customers in ethnic niche markets for many years, hummus remained a mostly-unknown food to the vast majority of Americans.

The brand launched its expansion with a Costco Road Show in 2004, offering samples, while growing awareness and demand. The brand also showed early success in Publix grocery stores. This focused channel strategy allowed Sabra to engage with shoppers that uniquely meet Sabra’s target consumer profile: affluent, experimental and shopping for sharing/family occasions. Eugenio Perrier, Chief Marketing Officer for Sabra reflects on this period:

At the Costco Road Show, consumers were loving Sabra. The velocity of the Road Show was great. At the base of everything, there was a revolutionary product, perfectly positioned to delight American tastebuds. Other hummus can be dry, grainy and plain. Sabra emphasizes a smooth, creamy and balanced taste profile that features kitchen-fresh garnishes. The good-for-you appeal of the product coincides with health and wellness trends. Sabra isnt just low in something,’ it’s traditionally made, minimally processed, delivering a wholesome, nutrient-rich food.

Hummus Tailored to American Taste Preferences

Sabra hummus is a disruptive product because of its appeals to American taste preferences and health trends. The unique recipe brings the best “traditional” hummus from the Mediterranean and makes it familiar and appealing to American consumers. The product formulation balances sweet and sour, and the garnish topping adds visual appeal, along with kitchen-fresh taste differentiation.

By formulating the product in a unique way, Sabra positioned itself to take hummus from an ethnic food to a mainstream fresh dip/spread appropriate for any snacking occasion.

Sabra’s Market Strategy

Key to its success is Sabra’s very well-defined customer profile: affluent, high-income 35-50-year-old females. They seek new flavor experiences and better-for-you options for themselves and their family. Typically, they have older kids in their household. Within this target are vegan and vegetarians looking for good sources of protein. Mainstream consumers view hummus as an appealing way to eat more vegetables, as well as fresher and healthier than other dips.

Sabra’s Half-Billion-Dollar Hummus Empire Grew One Dip at a TimeBecause shared consumption is a primary goal of the target, Sabra decided to go-to-market in 10 oz. diameter tubs, while the rest of the market was in 7-8 oz. containers. Sabra created disruptive breakthrough packaging and were the first in the US to introduce hummus in a cup that is about 40% wider than others available at the time.

The larger diameter was better suited for sharing, and with the ability to be eaten right out of package, there is no need to dirty a bowl, adding more convenience. The packaging also features a highly-visible, red-striped rim, which gives the product a premium feel to match the fresh, better-for-you recipe formulation. This distinctive feature helps the Sabra brand stand out on the shelf.

After building a base of hummus enthusiasts, the brand went on to create a broad hummus community. Today, shoppers will find Sabra’s 14 hummus varieties in refrigerated kiosks in most grocery stores, including Kroger, Wal-Mart and others. The company created portability solutions for different demand moments, among them a grab-and-go, single-serve hummus that can be found in airports, c-stores and supermarkets. As the #1 brand, Sabra continues to grow the hummus category with new offerings and packaging that appeal to their expansion target. Sabra is a stunning story of smart market strategies—and the story is just beginning.

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    Michal Clements

    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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