Chickpea craziness: how hummus is getting the sweet treatment

Start-up Hou is launching sweet hummus into the UK market for the first time, with the aim of shaking up the spread market and developing children’s products.

30 August 2018

Chickpeas in dessert? Sure, the chickpea water known as aquafaba is a great substitute for eggs, while Bogota’s Villanos en Bermudas makes a chickpea mousse. But what about conventional hummus being turned sweet? This isn’t some flight of fancy, as the idea has already landed.

Hou has big plans to disrupt the spread market as a competitor to chocolate spreads and jams.

Co-founder Harry Tyndall was fond of microwaving whole tubs of Ben & Jerry’s to drink in his youth. Plagued with gout and kidney stones in later life, he decided to create the sweet hummus with his chef partner Jake Finn, in order to treat his sweet tooth through a healthier medium.

“We wanted to create three flavours to launch with, which offered health benefits, but yet were still quite indulgent,” Tyndall tells Food Spark.

“We chose ones to tackle a few areas which we thought needed amending within certain categories. For example, jams, nut butters and chocolate spreads, which are full of saturated fats, sugar and are high in calories. We have got a healthy alternative to them now.”

Chocolate, mixed berry and banoffee are Hou’s current standard-bearers, but there is a lot more product development planned for this fledgling company.

Challenging perceptions

Showing how nimble start-ups can be, Tyndall and Finn have only been working on the project full-time since April. After trials and comparisons with other hummus on the market, they have refined their recipe from a thick paste to a much smoother consistency.

But Tyndall is aware of the educational battle ahead for his sweet hummus brand, although its dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan credentials certainly give it a leg up.

“I think there is going to be a challenge for us to educate consumers to let them know what do with sweet hummus, but I think the exciting prospect is it hasn’t been done yet in the UK. It has been a big success in the States, and I think people need to see it as another sweet spread alternative, rather than something savoury like traditional hummus,” he says.

The US company Tyndall is referring to is Delighted by Hummus, who have replaced the customary garlic and lemon with cinnamon and whole vanilla beans, while the olive oil is substituted for coconut oil. Flavours include brownie batter, vanilla, snickerdoodle and choc-o-mint.

For Hou, coconut milk and tahini feature in the recipes. The brand supplies a number of suggestions for how to enjoy its product – including spreading it on toast, as a topping for muesli, dolloped on fruit as a snack or simply eaten out of the pot for pudding.

Tyndall and Finn also have plans for the children’s market, particularly as the spread has 14g of sugar per 100g, which is less than Nutella or the average jam. The duo are looking to create sharing and dipping packs for children where the chocolate hummus would come with breadsticks, while the berry flavour could be accompanied by apples.

Seasonal and shots

Other product ideas include seasonal spreads, comments Tyndall.

“Next Christmas, we could do a spiced pumpkin or a cranberry and orange. For Easter, we can do a double chocolate and mint. So we have loads of awesome ideas,” he explains.

“I have done some work with Diageo in my previous job when I was working at Deliveroo, and I would love to approach them to do a dairy-free, vegan Baileys spread for Christmas – that’s my dream for product development. No one has done it before and I genuinely think a Baileys spread would be phenomenal to have on a pudding at Christmas.”

Sweet hummus shots directly from the container are also in the pipeline.

While Hou’s products are currently sold online for £3, the first retail target is Waitrose, as the founders see the retailer as a perfect fit for the launch of a premium product. The goal is to have it hit shelves by quarter one next year, with a long-term ambition to expand to the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Tyndall predicts that both the chilled vegan dips section and the sweet hummus market will grow, as he has heard whispers of impending competition. He welcomes growth in the category, however, as he believes it’s time for the conventional dips and spread category to be given a shake-up.

“I think that dips and spreads have been limited and played quite a safe game,” explains Tyndall. “Chocolate spreads haven’t really moved in the market space at all and I think jams have become a little bit dated and old fashioned. I think something new in terms of ingredients let alone health benefits can make an impact in this category.”

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