America's Hot New Crop Is ... Chickpeas?

That's because hummus sales are booming, says Wall Street Journal
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2013 10:27 AM CDT
America's Hot New Crop Is ... Chickpeas?
File photo of a farmer holding chickpea seedpods.   (AP Photo/Scottsbluff Star-Herald, Melissa Smith)

Look out, US snackers, here comes the hummus. So says the Wall Street Journal, which declares that the relatively healthy Mediterranean dip made from chickpeas is "conquering America." The numbers are hard to dispute: Sales were up 11% last year to $530 million, and that's up 25% from 2010. Major players in the food industry have taken notice, with PepsiCo buying a major stake in No. 1 hummus maker Sabra and Kraft scooping up Athenos.

But maybe the most telling detail of all: Tobacco farmers in Virginia are shifting some of their fields to chickpeas. Most of the US crop currently comes from the Pacific Northwest, but that's changing quickly as demand grows. "Most of the consumers out there still don't know what hummus is," says the chief executive of Sabra rival Tribe Mediterranean Foods. "We think that there are going to be lots of new users coming to the category." (More hummus stories.)

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