Hummus company wants Virginia-grown chickpeas

virginia-newSabra Dipping Co. has ramped up production in the Richmond area to meet consumer demand for hummus. The company officially opened a major expansion of its chesterfield county food plant in October.

The 118,000-square-foot addition doubles the plant’s capacity to produce hummus, a traditional Middle Eastern food spread made from chickpeas and tahini, or sesame paste.

According to a Sabra spokesperson, the expansion gave Sabra the capacity to produce more than 8,000 tons of hummus per month, and the company expects to expand the plant again in the future.

Sabra has been working since 2013 with Virginia State University to develop better methods for Virginia farmers to grow chickpeas.

“Given Sabra’s presence in Virginia, as well as the increasing consumption of hummus in the United States, it’s important to research the feasibility of producing chickpeas here in Virginia,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “If we can produce a cost-effective, reliable volume of chickpeas here in Virginia, it would benefit both farmers and food processors.”

In the United States, chickpeas are produced mostly in the Pacific Northwest. William Crutchfield, VSU’s small farm outreach program director, said Sabra is interested in having Virginia farmers grow chickpeas to save on transportation costs.

“They would love to get chickpeas grown in Virginia so they don’t have to ship them in. They told us they need 50,000 acres of chickpeas to keep the plant running at full capacity,” Crutchfield said.

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