Smashed garbanzo bean upstart Delighted by Hummus appeared on Shark Tank recently and received rave reviews from the Sharks for the sweet version of the traditional garlic spread. So much so that Mark Cuban dropped $600,000 for a 12 percent stake in the fledgling maker of Brownie Batter, Snickerdoodle, Vanilla Bean, and Choco-Mint flavored hummus.
As bizarre as dessert hummus may sound to the uninitiated, Delighted is far from the first company to happen on the sweet and creamy alchemy of mating chickpeas with cocoa. A few years back, a restaurant in Abu Dhabi dabbled in chocolate hummus, and baking goddess Nigella Lawson has long been hip to the combo too. Hope Foods, one of the pioneers in the packaged chocolate hummus space, makes a delectable chocolate coconut variety. Boars Head also recently began making a push for their dark chocolate hummus.
An in-store tasting with a pretzel stick dipped in the stuff was my introduction. It tasted great. And, while it’s by no means a health food, there is less sugar per serving than Nutella (6 grams versus 21 grams). Plus, you get a dose of fiber to boot. I couldn’t resist buying a container, and my 5-year-old and I slathered the velvety spread on top a Duncan Hines cake in lieu of frosting. He was one happy camper. Which is why we also used it as a dessert spread on bread, not to mention as a sensational dip for strawberries.
The big question, however, is can this tasty legume-based dessert become the next Nutella?
“I think it could very well fit into the ever-expanding plant-based food world as long as it tastes good and is nutritious,” says Kara Nielsen, director of trend practice at CCD Innovation, a strategic food and beverage innovation agency, adding that she wouldn’t be surprised to see dessert hummus eventually be given the same snack-pack treatment as it savory cousin.
While it may take years until we see this in as many lunchboxes as Handi-Snacks Oreo Cookie Sticks ‘N crème, as long as the better-for-you snacking movement continues to gain steam, it’s not unforeseeable. Millennial parents have been embracing health-conscious choices for a while now and beans don’t scare them. Not only that, but the vegan community is certainly champing at the bit to see one of their favorite superfoods moonlighting as a dessert.
“The chickpea base is a very good canvas to add flavors to,” explains Alan Nemeth, executive director of the Vegan Trade Council. When chickpeas are plain and unadorned, it’s blander than that wolf-kid from Twilight. But drizzle on olive oil, squeeze a little lemon, add a few shakes of smoked paprika, maybe a clove of garlic, and it’s a new ball game. The same holds true on the sweet side: A little chocolate, coconut, cinnamon, or vanilla changes the flavor profile.
“I don’t see why it couldn’t catch on,” adds Nemeth. “It’ll develop its small niche first. You’ll see it in specialty food stores, and then you’ll see its somewhere like Target and that’s when it’ll take off.”
With most Americans falling short of the daily-recommended dosages of fiber and potassium, dessert hummus also offers a sweet way to jack up that tally.
“Nutella is pretty devoid of nutrition so it would be great if it was replaced with healthier options. Garbanzo beans, which make up the bulk of what hummus is made from, are high in fiber and potassium,” explains Dr. Brie Turner-McGrievy, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina who specializes in nutrition.
That said, it’s still decidedly a dessert with the sugar and fat that come with the territory so it shouldn’t be confused for diet food. For health nuts, Turner-McGrievy encourages DIY versions. Her favorite homemade dessert hummus recipe, brownie batter hummus, has five grams of fiber per ¼ cup. “Compare that to a brownie batter ice cream, and you’d have only 0.5 grams of fiber per ¼ cup.”
Domestic and global demand for hummus is growing rapidly. In 2015 domestic farmers sold $37,966,119 worth of chickpeas; in 2016 that more than doubled to $98,582,105, an all-time record. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture sales in 2017 remain extremely strong.
Now getting people to get over the “Whaaat, are you kidding me?” factor when presented with chocolate hummus and its ilk does present a challenge, but it’s not an insurmountable one. Almond butter and nut cheese faced similar pushback and now that stuff flies off shelves.
Chocolate hummus may prove an even easier sell but companies should consider reframing the product narrative and market it as simply a healthier chocolate spread. Take it out of the hummus aisle and shelve it alongside Jell-O pudding and other refrigerated desserts. More finicky consumers would be a bit less weirded out and more inclined give the bean-based dessert a try.