Sabra's new sesame seed variety will be grown in the US
01 June 2020

Hummus goliath Sabra worked in partnership with Israel-based seed breeding company Equinom to create a sesame seed that can be grown in the U.S. This new variety is optimized for the flavor and texture of tahini through its sugar, protein and moisture levels, Forbes reported. The exact details are proprietary. The new seed, which will be grown in Oklahoma and Texas, also allows the company to add more transparency to its supply chain. The first containers of hummus made with this new breed of sesame seed will arrive on shelves in 2021, with widespread availability beginning in 2022.

Dive Insight:

By moving sesame seed production to the United States, Sabra will source the two principal ingredients of its hummus from the same country in which the final product is sold. It will also increase the transparency of the hummus company’s supply chain, something consumers are increasingly conscious of as they look to purchase from companies that reflect their own values. However, supply chain transparency is not only beneficial for consumers. Manufacturers can also benefit from this change. A cleaner supply chain provides the company with better insight into the practices and ingredients that go into the hummus, which will help develop internal improvements. Upgrading the quality of sesame seeds is a first step in internal improvement. According to Forbes, most of the U.S. sesame seed crop is not suitable for tahini and is instead used for baked goods and sesame oil.

The new breed of seed that Sabra will begin introducing into its products next year is one that is higher quality. But it also may alter the taste of Sabra's hummus. While there is no mention of whether the company is also trying to change its products' flavor, the company’s goal of achieving the ideal taste and texture for tahini begs the question. If the taste of the hummus does change — even if it is improved — there is a chance that the company will lose customers accustomed to today’s flavors. By the same token, the change may be welcome to customers interested in a new flavor profile imparted by the specialized sesame seeds.

Still, this move is likely to benefit Sabra in the long run. Forbes reported that the new sesame seeds grow well in Texas and Oklahoma, where bumper crops of this new seed have been produced. Having access to ample amounts of one of its primary ingredients is something that could improve the seeds' price point and boost Sabra’s bottom line. There is also the possibility that these new sesame seeds will improve the nutritional profile of the company’s hummus. Equinom, which was founded eight years ago, has raised $17.6 million in funding to expand crossbreeding technology to produce non-GMO "smarter seeds" with higher nutritional profiles and crop yields. And the company has not been working with just any seeds; it has focused on sesame seeds. Equinom already designed mechanically harvestable sesame seed varieties with more oil content, and this partnership with Sabra expands the seed company’s portfolio in sesame development. New non-GMO sesame seeds with higher nutritional profiles will play well for Sabra, which is in an increasingly competitive market where functionality and taste are vital to consumers.

By increasing the control it has over seed sourcing, Sabra will help its brand grow in concert with changing consumer demands. If its partnership with Equinom continues, there is a possibility that other initiatives could be launched to control more aspects of the ingredient supply chain. Creating enhanced ingredients is not a unique endeavor by Sabra. Earlier this year, Mars, Inc. teamed up with agricultural analytics company Nature Source Improved Plants to work on develop new cacao varieties with greater yields, better disease resistance and higher quality. These efforts to focus on high yield, high-quality ingredients will help companies in the long run as they look to meet increasing demand from consumers without continuing to increase the number of resources invested in agricultural production.