By Erik Borjesson

Demand for healthy snacks  is increasing – not just in between meals, but also on the go, with health benefits playing an important role. So, consumers are  looking for convenient products that can bridge the gap between health and indulgence.

One  of the  healthy  snacks  seeing a surge as a result of these developments is hummus. Loved for its versatility, for its convenience, and for being a plant-based option with less climate impact, hummus has achieved a position as a fridge staple in many markets. The interesting thing about hummus – or more accurately the humble chickpea – is that it sits at the intersection of several key consumer trends. As a result, sales of hummus are predicted to grow at a rate of almost 13% per year until 2027, according to Market Research Future.

What are those trends? First, you have the growth of veganism, which has moved from the periphery to become a mainstream  lifestyle choice. The growth of the vegan consumer has driven people to the delights of hummus. High in protein, iron, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, hummus ticks the box as a plant-based food for the ever- growing number of vegetarians and vegans. In the US alone, the share of consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1% in 2014 to 6% in 2017 (Global Data), a 600% increase in just a three-year period.

Secondly,  millennials   love hummus. According to research from marketing firm The  Halo Group, millennials are the most health-conscious generation ever. Chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, are packed with protein and fiber and are also high in iron, folate, phosphorus, and B vitamins. This makes them the perfect staple food for savvy millennials seeking to maximize the health benefits of the products they consume.

Thirdly, in a world where lifestyles are increasingly hectic and the need for healthy bitesize formats is crucial, hummus is seen as a highly convenient product. It is also versatile, as it can be consumed as an appetizer, sandwich spread or dip.

New innovations are expanding hummus beyond its traditional flavors and textures to include new twists such as lemon and coriander, roasted tomato, red pepper, or even chocolate.

In the wider Prepared  Foods category –  in  which hummus sits – consumers increasingly demand natural products with a simple list of recognisable ingredients or “clean label”. This means fewer, or no, artificial additives or synthetic chemicals. This in turn demands rigorous standards of food safety  in the production process and adjusting production setups accordingly.

We at Tetra Pak have supported producers to experiment with flavors and textures by using our expertise to design processing lines for producing hummus, whether for smooth or coarse, with or without pieces or chilled or ambient storage, whether in a batch or continuous process.

In addition, Tetra Pak has developed a mixer model in the High Shear Mixer series especially designed to handle chickpeas, beans and other vegetables. It has the option of  a  special bin  lift for adding the chickpeas into the  mixing tank ergonomically. It also has several design refinements for the mixing and processing of chickpeas including a built-in heating jacket and nozzles for steam injection. This mixer forms the heart of a processing line for making hummus.

Producing quality hummus on an industrial scale to meet the growing demand that the sector has seen requires processing expertise that takes into account variables such as texture, storage conditions and shelf life expectations around the world. Tetra Pak has over 30 years expertise in processing hummus so we can offer insights and best practice on how food manufacturers can address and capitalise on the increased demand for hummus.

* Erik Borjesson is Line Solution Manager and Food Technologist, Tetra Pak