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Ithaca Hummus' sales boom as upstart's founder embraces competition

·Reporter, Booking Producer
·3 min read
In this article:
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The hummus aisle at grocers like Target (TGT), Whole Foods (AMZN) and Sprouts (SFM) just got even more crowded. 

As consumers seek healthier alternatives, relative newcomer Ithaca Hummus recently announced its expansion into all 506 Whole Foods locations nationwide. CEO Chris Kirby, who founded the company in 2013 and used to go door-to-door to sell his product, explained the expansion "is just the culmination of years of hard work."

Still, better-known names in the market like Boars Head and Pepiso's (PEP) Sabra Dipping Company pose stiff competition to Ithaca. However, Kirby said he's not threatened — and welcomes the competition.

"We're very excited to see growth of the hummus category. There was a period of time where we were kind of flat and growing at the rate of inflation...it's nice to see that picking back up," he told Yahoo Finance.

As the aisle expands, Kirby is aware though that the brand needs to stand out, he says "we're very cognizant and strategic about our channel strategy, where we show up on the shelf is important to us."

And it may be working: according to Ithaca, retail sales are up 61% year over year, outpacing its competition.

With concern about inflation on both Wall Street and Main Street, Ithaca is keeping a close eye on rising prices. But at least for now, the CEO said his company has no plans to pass those costs along to its consumers, and will keep its $4.99 suggested retail price.

"With COVID, there have been a lot of fluctuations in the supply chain, we're very sensitive to passing on costs," Kirby explained. 

"We work very hard to make sure that we get creative, and we stay nimble with our vendor...luckily— who knows what the future holds, but for now, we've been able to maintain our cost and a really solid supply chain record over the last year, as COVID unfolded," he added.

'Ready for the next thing'

(COURTESY: ITHACA)
(COURTESY: ITHACA)

This may be a prime time for Kirby and the Ithaca brand as the plant-based market continues to get a major boost. According to Frito-Lay’s latest U.S. Snack Index finding, three in five, or 59 percent, adults in the U.S. are seeking healthier snack options.

Kirby told Yahoo Finance that when he founded the brand several years ago, he felt like the hummus category and consumers "were ready for the next thing."

He added: "As a chef, I tried every brand, every product out there. To me, it felt like that next thing was a brand that offered fresher, more intense flavor profiles that aligned with the American palate." 

The company has leaned into its slogan, 'Taste hummus for the first time. Even if it's your hundredth time' which is prominently displayed on its website and packaging. Part of its appeal stems from the use of lemons as a core ingredient, and unique flavors like dill, garlic and beets.

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at bdipalma@yahoofinance.com. Check out her latest: