At the center of the smorgasbord of the fiercely competitive food industry where consumer tastes are fickle and sustainability is hard, Sabra Dipping Co. LLC, can boast a stable position as the leader in the US hummus market.
Sabra’s CEO, Joey Bergstein has been at the helm since August 2021, focused on solidifying purpose and increasing sustainability. “Sustainability isn’t just something we do—it’s part of who we are. We believe that by making conscious choices at every step, we can create a better world for today and for generations to come.”
The company’s purpose, says Bergstein, is to “unite and delight the world around planet-positive food.” Pretty simple, he says—and that’s the company’s secret. “When it comes to how we show up in the marketplace, we want to delight people with wonderful hummus and do so in a way that has a positive impact on our world.”
A rich history: From humble beginnings to market dominance
Sabra’s journey began in 1986 when NY-based entrepreneur Yehuda Pearl set out to introduce the beloved Mediterranean dip and spread to Americans. Sabra’s delicious, creamy hummus was a quick hit and its innovative packaging stood out on shelf. As it grew, it captured the attention of multinational food brands and in 2008 the Strauss Group and PepsiCo entered into a joint venture, each with 50% ownership opening doors and accelerating the growth of the brand, now practically synonymous with hummus today.
“We were founded by Yehuda Pearl,” says Bergstein. “He’s a very entrepreneurial Orthodox rabbi who’s gone on to do some other really amazing things. Pearl is quite a character, actually. He’s got another very successful business that he started called Veggies Made Great. He also has another business that he’s funding that recycles trash into plastic (Israel-based UBQ Materials)They’ve built a huge plant in the Netherlands. .”
UBQ is a bio-based thermoplastic composite made from 100 percent unsorted household waste, including all organics and unrecyclable materials.
What sets Sabra apart: pillars of sustainability & cross-cultural tastes
Bergstein’s background in marketing and brand management has been instrumental in Sabra’s continued market dominance. Before taking over Sabra, he held key leadership roles at Seventh Generation (now a Unilever owned company), where he honed his expertise in sustainable business practices and consumer engagement.
Says Bergstein, “Hummus has been around for centuries, beloved across an entire region. It’s really interesting in that it crosses cultural divides and brings people together around a table.
A lot of people love hummus, indeed. Data indicates the hummus market alone at $952 M across multi-outlet and convenience store retail during the last 52 weeks ending in August. That excludes Costco and the Natural channel, though, so Sabra estimates the market value at more like $1 B. The larger Dips and Spreads Market size was valued at $90.2 B correct ???) in 2022 and is estimated to grow at 5.4 percent annually from 2023 to 2032.
All indications are that better for you options such as hummus are likely to continue to grow. But Sabra’s leadership in the food industry goes beyond market share and revenue figures. From the beginning, the company, headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., has been a proponent of sustainability and environmental consciousness. This commitment is evident in every aspect of its operations, from responsibly sourcing ingredients to minimizing its potential negative impact on the environment, says Bergstein.
The company’s sustainable practices encompass a simple formula of reducing waste generation and managing energy within it’s extensive operations as well as improving recyclability. “Sabra has always been very conscious about its footprint,” Bergstein says.
“Sustainability is key to our success so we reward it. We have two sustainability metrics that we’ve integrated into our company incentive plan for 2023.” Bergstein points to a dramatic decrease in waste, which he notes is, “significant greater than a 50 percent absolute reduction overall this year to date compared to 2022 over the same period. We’ve reduced waste-to-landfill by even more. We’re also converting our hummus packages to being broadly recyclable.”
Nurturing communities & collaboration
At Sabra’s LEED-certified hummus manufacturing facility – the largest in the country – in Chesterfield County, Virginia, 2,000 recycling bins are made of Pearl’s UBQ sustainable plastic substitute, and the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority plans to expand that pilot.
Sabra’s dedication to sustainability extends beyond its corporate operations. The company actively supports local communities and collaborates with partners to help ensure that local families have nourishing food.
Bergstein emphasizes the importance of simplicity in setting sustainability goals, arguing, “You keep it simple and you don’t over-complicate it.”
“It’s not just about the food on the table; it’s about the hands that make it and the hearts that enjoy it. We’re dedicated to making positive change and helping create a future where fresh, delicious food is accessible to everyone.”
Along those simplicity lines, Bergstein highlights the company’s collaboration with local organizations like Feed More, which has supported the Central Virginia community with more than 30 million meals—1 out of 9 people in the region is food insecure. “So, we donate a lot of product,” Bergstein says “We need to feed more people, to get food into the hands of the people who need it the most.”
Innovation for a sustainable (& delicious) future
While hummus remains at the heart of the brand, the company sees potential in expanding into other fresh Mediterranean foods, says Bergstein.
As a market leader, Sabra aims to set an example for the entire food industry, Bergstein says. Sabra desires to inspire others by demonstrating that it is possible to create delicious, planet-positive food that benefits both people and the environment. “Our belief is that people should feel good about the food they enjoy, which is why we’re deeply committed to producing food that not only tastes great but is also good for you and good for the planet.
“Hummus is a very simple recipe made of legumes and sesame seeds that is a good choice for people and planet,” says Bergstein.
“From a nutritional standpoint, Hummus contains protein and fiber. And from a sustainability standpoint, chickpeas are a very regenerative crop. Chickpeas are often used as a rotational crop in between other crops because they put nitrogen into the soil. So, whatever comes after the chickpeas, the soil is better prepared; it’s more productive,” says Bergstein. “It’s really important to all of us at Sabra that we operate in a way that we can be proud of.”
If you’d like to dive deeper with more purpose-led companies like Sabra, check out the Lead with We podcast here, so that you too can build a company that transforms consumer behavior and our future.