Obela launched in Australia at a time when hommus was flying well under the radar. General manager Chris Elliott reveals how the company turned this around in the space of five years.
Q: Why did PepsiCo and Strauss launch the Obela range in 2013, at a time when the chilled dip category had been in decline for three years?
"Seeing the global trend towards better-for-you foods and further motivated by their successful hommus joint venture, called Sabra, in North America, both parent companies felt there was a real opportunity to revive the dips category, and for a great hommus to be a bigger part of the Australian diet than it was back then. History has told us they were right.
When we first started the company I wondered why anyone would want to start a niche business like it in Australia since the product already existed here – but I realised there was lots of room for improvement.
The reason for the category’s decline is that it was the same brand, the same products, doing the same things that weren’t on trend in terms of what consumers were looking for.Younger people in particular were wanting something different.
Back in 2013 when we launched, only 14 per cent of households were buying hommus. Consumers we surveyed were saying hommus, to them, was dirty-tasting, gritty, grainy, and acidic.
It sounded like they were describing dirt rather than food, and many people didn’t find it appealing.
Ours, however, has been described as smooth, creamy, nutty, beany, and “melt-in- your-mouth”.I fell in love with the Obela product when I tasted it – and others did too – and its launch really changed things for the category.
Within the first 14 months of operation, Obela became market share leader of the hommus category and remains there today.
Obela grew the hommus category from $42 million to an estimated $100 million in retail grocery sales in five years, making it one of the fastest growing categories in retail food.
Obela now sells nearly twice as much hommus as its nearest competitor brand, and we’ve seen 30 per cent growth this year."