Aussie hommus prices ‘will be ok’ despite global chickpea shortage

Obela Hommus DipHommus has emerged as one of the top choices for dips in the country.

This delicious dip may be flourishing but due to high demand there is now a chickpea shortage in the UK. But, Obela’s GM said Australians should not fear as their beloved dip is here to stay.

Inside FMCG had a chat to Obela’s general manager for Australia, Chris Elliott to talk about hommus’ popularity in Australia and the effect of the recent shortage of chickpeas in the UK.

Inside FMCG: Recently in the news, a global chickpea shortage has been reported which has caused the price of a tub of hommus in the UK to soar and supermarkets have emptied shelves. Do you think this will happen to Australia? Why yes or not?

Chris Elliott: This is true Chickpeas have already gone up nearly two fold in two years to us but consumers aren’t seeing this increase to date in our market price probably because Obela is the market leader in hommus representing almost half of all pre-packaged retail sales of hommus (39.4% as measured by IRI [for the] last four weeks) and we’ve worked closely with local growers to ensure that we have supply and a cost base that allows us to holding price for our consumers as long as possible.

Inside FMCG: Can you tell us how this global chickpea shortage began? How long do you think it will continue?

There is a lot of international demand for our chickpeas that is contributing to this but locally the demand is coming from consumers, Australians are falling love with good hommus (we’re growing at +40% a year and have doubled the category in five years) so I think the demand locally is here to stay and is only going to grow. We need more farmers to see this and start growing chickpeas.  

Inside FMCG: How will Obela deal with it in the case that Australia is affected in the future?

We’ve worked with our local growers to best ensure supply and a sustainable price with contracts covering 2018. I just hope more farmers see this opportunity to get onboard the hommus trend and think about growing chickpeas instead of other crops with less demand. [It] is amazing and as more people taste the dip the more they fall in love with it so we’re definitely going to need more and more farmers to support us.

Inside FMCG: What precautions can you put in place?

We’re very close to our growers here locally- this is key. We’re also looking for opportunities to work with potential future chickpea farmers that want assurances around income in return for their crops. The hommus trend is great for entrepreneurial farmers in Australia and we hope to work with more like-minded farmers in future.

Inside FMCG: Tell us how Obela began in Australia?

Obela is part of a global vision from two shareholders that believe we can create a new way of eating (dipping, snacking, and spreading) with a hommus that tastes like no other. In Australia, three people took on this challenge starting the company in Australia back in 2013 and today, Obela employees upwards of 70 people and has doubled the size of the category from $50M to $100M retail sales in five years. Category sales is the real proof Australian’s love our hommus.

Inside FMCG: How has it emerged as a top choice of dip as the chilled dip category was declining a few years ago?

The key here is that it tastes great and hommus is so versatile. It’s like a canvas for food (if you get the [it] right). You start with the canvas and then paint with flavours like pine nut or jalapeño and to build a taste experience that people love to dip with and are proud to share with their friends. This is the new way of eating as people move away from cheese based dips. The dipping flavours you can create with hommus as a base are amazing and we’re only just getting started.

Inside FMCG: Where do you see your company expanding next?

We just launched in [New Zealand] where we’re exceeding expectations but I see most of the long term success still coming from Australia. We believe less than 20 per cent of households buy retail hommus and the key is to get more people to try it and have some fun exploring how to use it (as a dip, spread or a snack). We haven’t scratched the surface of what hommus can be in Australia.  

Inside FMCG: Any new products consumers can look forward to?

Coming soon, we have a small portion on-the-go pack for kids or people that want a smaller serve with cracker combined, we have entertaining twin pack with multiple flavours for those who are “double dippers” and we have some great new flavours in our core range. We’re always looking for new and exciting products for people to enjoy.

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