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New York…The story of a pending PepsiCo – Osem Hummus war first broke in Kosher Today last June but the first shot was fired last week by Tribe with an ad in Jewish weeklies “Not all Hummus is all Natural.” Tribe was apparently challenging the highly successful Sabra brand by taking on the salad giant with the natural claim. A Brooklyn gourmet supermarket has also been highly successful in promoting its own brand of “natural” hummus as opposed to the Sabra brand which includes preservatives and enjoys a much longer shelf life. Sabra USA is owned by PepsiCo. Osem, 54% of which is owned by Nestle, acquired Tribe in 2008, which is now Osem’s brand of salads in the US. Although it acquired the Sabra brand in Israel, it does not own the US brand and apparently cannot use the name Sabra. The US Sabra is credited with expanding hummus to mainstream consumers with a marketing campaign that includes the use of television. A spokesman for a major supermarket chain told Kosher Today that “hummus is hot and for the moment Sabra owns the category.” Tribe is obviously hoping that by playing the natural card, they will be able to cut into Sabra’s steadily growing dominance in the national hummus market. While Sabra seems to be devoting most of its attention outside of the kosher market, Tribe seems anxious to first carve out a strong niche in the kosher market.
Shoham, Modi’in…As the salad market continues to grow in the US kosher market and even in mainstream, Osem may soon find itself in a head to head battle with Sabra USA, owned by PepsiCo. Osem, 54% of which is owned by Nestle, acquired Tribe in 2008, which may very well be Osem’s brand of salads in the US. Although it acquired the Sabra brand in Israel, it does not own the US brand. Baruch Peled, the export manager for Osem’s core products, explained that Osem has been on a buying spree in recent years as part of its major expansion worldwide. In addition to Tzabar (Sabra) in Israel, it acquired such popular brands as Bonjour and Tival. With annual sales of $1.5 billion, it is the largest of Israel’s “big three” which also includes Tnuva and Strauss/Elite. Osem, says Peled, emphasizes initiative, excellence and “Israelisness.” Its world-class distribution center is by all accounts one of the most progressive in the world. With 12 plants in Israel and 9 overseas, its food lines now extend to 35 categories. Osem’s new moves in the US go well beyond its Osem USA business. In addition to Tribe, which Peled says offers consumers hummus without preservatives (as opposed to Sabra), Osem also acquired Veggie-Patch, which may very well be its expansion into the US market with products similar to those vegetarian items successfully marketed in Europe under the Tival brand. The large Bamba doll at the entrance to the plant has also been making news with some fascinating new products, including Hazelnut and Bamba Halva filled Bamba. Nestle has also been filling some of its cereals with cream, a trend it may take worldwide. If anyone had any doubts about the power of Nestle/Osem, they need only watch pallets moving from slot to slot without the benefit of human involvement, save for the computer programmers. There are more robots in the center, the size of at least two football fields, than humans. The Nestle/Osem group will no doubt be a company to watch in the years ahead in the kosher and general markets throughout the world.
Menachem Lubinsky is the founder and co-producer of Kosherfest, the annual trade event for the kosher food & beverage industry and is the editor-in-chief of KosherToday. Menachem Lubinsky is also the President and CEO of LUBICOM Marketing Consulting a firm that specializes in strategic business and not-for-profit planning and implementation.