The Hummus War has Begun

Last Sunday, the Hummus Was has finally began. Unlike other wars, this one is going to be fairly harmless, because the fighting will be done by means of marketing, advertising, giveaways and special prices.

Calcalist is the #3 business publication in Israel, a relatively new and small newspaper. It’s a very mainstream, nevertheless, so it usually deals with mainstream business news – nothing like that main headline on August 3rd. The headline said: The Hummus War.

מלחמות החומוס, כלכליסט

It’s seems like a very common news item: two major local companies fighting over a market. The point is that these two companies, Osem and Strauss, are fighting over the American hummus market. Read more

Hummus SSRI-effect & the Tryptophan rich diet

Chickpeas and tahini, the major ingredients of hummus, contain essential amino acids which has a very similar effect to that of anti-depressants. Don’t be surprised if one day in the near future your doctor will prescribe you some hummus.

In a recent post I addressed the fascinating issue of hummus’s anti-depression and anti-anxiety potential. To be exact, hummus has some nutrients that may affect mood in certain dosages. This is somewhat similar to how an SSRI drug (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Prozac, Seroxat or Cipralex works.

SSRIs prolongs the presence of free serotonin in the brain. The postponed absorption of serotonin (a crucial neurotransmitter) into the brain cells, would usually result in diminished symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety and compulsive behaviour, thus make one “happier”.
Read more

Hummus, Tahini and Panic

Two weeks ago, a series of packaged Hummus products were recalled from supermarkets all over the UK. A routine check found them to be contaminated with salmonella. No illnesses were reported, but there was panic on the streets of London. Or so we heard.

This story brought to attention the growing popularity of hummus in Britain. The UK today is a fast growing market for hummus, and so is the US.

Just think of the consequences of such a contamination if it happened in one of the Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia. Well, it didn’t. But 26 million Saudis thought it had.

At the same time the Brits got panicked about their hummus, the Saudi newspapers reported that most of the Tahini products in the country contain a carcinogenic ingredient called “tio2″.

Tahini – in case you didn’t know – is a sesame seed paste, which is the second most important ingredient of hummus, after chickpeas. Saudis eat lots of both. It took the SFDA (Saudi Food & Drug Authority) some time until they posted this formal announcement which confirmed their initial claim: the suspicious substance does not cause cancer.

Tio2 (Titanium dioxide), also known as E171, is a perfectly safe color additive, commonly used in drugs (all kinds of white pills), cosmetics and foods. There is a good chance of finding it in your toothpaste, your shampoo (if it’s white), and your coffee whitener as well.

The American FDA, for example, lists it with the safest sources for pigments, alongside some fruits. Studies had found it to be safe in dosages 300 times greater than those used in Tehini.

So of course this was a hoax – and not a new one, by the way. I once got a SPAM massage with a warning about Tio2. I wonder if the Saudis got it too.

The Emerging Hummus Market in the US

American household are embracing the hummus. The packaged hummus products now sell 30 times what they did a decade ago. 10 year ago, most Americans didn’t know what Hummus was. Today, the packaged hummus has grown into an estimated $143 million business, says Associated Press.25 years after Israel and 15 years after the UK, you can now find it in mainstream groceries all over the states. Some still spell it “Humous” or “Chumus”, but it is more common now to find Tehina (or “Tahini“, sesame seed butter) in it’s list of ingredients, as you would in Middle Eastern restaurants.

Currently, there are about 80 American hummus manufacturers, and according to an ACNielsen study, sales has increased 25% last year. Common predictions talk about up to 50% growth by the end of this decade.

In part, the growth is attributed to healthier eating trends, and hummus – even in it’s industrialized form – is considered a natural food, and by all means healthier than most other dips. Actually, it was very popular in natural food stores for a while. But recently, even 7-11 has begun selling hummus throughout their eastern shore stores.

In Israel, a recent study has decreased packaged hummus sales a bit, showing it’s nutritional value is inferior to that of a freshly made hummus. Since “hummusiot” – restaurants which specialize in hummus – are very common in Israel, it is relatively easy to replace the industrial substitute with the original dish.

Israeli manufacturers such as Strauss, Tsabar and others, address Israeli market with low calorie products for some time, and there are also a few health food restaurants in Israel, selling organic hummus. But the simple truth is there nothing like the freshly homemade hummus (and here is our hummus recipe, btw).