After more than a decade of dominating refrigerated savory dips, Sabra is showing its sweet side.
In time for Valentine's Day, the hummus leader is launching chickpea-based Dark Chocolate Dip & Spread. While it is made from a chickpea base, Sabra is not calling it "hummus" — it doesn't meet the standards of identity the company has proposed be codified by the FDA.
However, Sabra's Chief Technology Officer Cherie Floyd told Food Dive she doesn't mind if consumers see the round tub and Sabra branding and misidentify what's inside.
"We really don't care what you call it," Floyd said. "You can call it dessert. You can call it a spread. You can call it Kathy for all we care. But we think you're going to love it."
Other hummus makers have had sweet flavors on the market for a few years, making Sabra a latecomer to the segment. Boar's Head first created Dark Chocolate Dessert Hummus as a limited-time offer in late 2017, and made it a permanent addition to its lineup a year later. Many followed in those footsteps last year and created several dessert hummus varieties. Delighted by Hummus launched a full slate of sweet flavors of the dip, while Tribe and Trader Joe's also created dessert versions.
"The timing just seemed to be right as we think about plant-based foods ... We really want to be the refrigerated plant-based dips and spreads solution for people, and so it just seems to be an area where we felt that we could really satisfy consumer needs."
Chief technology officer, Sabra
Sabra has worked on chocolate dip off and on since before Floyd joined the company last summer, she said, but now is the right time for the launch. The dips powerhouse, which is a joint venture between PepsiCo and Strauss, buckled down on trying to perfect the dark chocolate variation, which went through final R&D in less than six months, Floyd said.
"When you look at where consumers are headed and what they're looking for, ... their tastes are broadening. And so there's a need for things not only in savory but also in more of the indulgent area as well," Floyd said. "And so the timing just seemed to be right as we think about plant-based foods. ... We really want to be the refrigerated plant-based dips and spreads solution for people, and so it just seems to be an area where we felt that we could really satisfy consumer needs."
Sabra practically invented the U.S. hummus market and still controls the lion's share. According to Statista, Sabra had a 63% market share of refrigerated flavored spreads in 2015. So by bringing a sweet dip to the refrigerated case, by virtue of its strong brand recognition, Sabra may quickly find itself on top of dessert spread sales. Floyd said the dark chocolate product will be available for Valentine's Day, and will start rolling out nationwide next month.
Floyd said the creamy texture, chocolatey aroma and full taste will also differentiate this dip from its competitors.
"We put a lot of time and care into coming up with just the right blend of cocoa with chickpeas and the other ingredients. And so we really have a lot of belief and a lot of heart for this product, so we're very excited about it," she said.
When Floyd was hired, Sabra touted her as the person to help the company move hummus beyond the realm of dip. With a resume that includes R&D for Kellogg North America Snacks and product development at General Mills and Pillsbury, she was already known as an innovator. Floyd told Food Dive the dark chocolate dip is one of many innovations and shifts in positioning that Sabra is making under her leadership to change how the company's products are perceived.
The launch comes on the heels of the brand's first Super Bowl commercial on Sunday. It featured several celebrities and influencers all talking about how they eat hummus — more focus on changing the perception and conversation around the dip.
"What we're really all about is just talking about versatility, and how you don't have to have hummus or any of our products really the same old way, and encouraging people to really think about how they want to use it and how, how it can fit their lifestyle," Floyd said.