Obela, or Sabra in North America, is one of the big hummus brands in Europe, Mexico and Northern America. Whilst Obela has really convinced me of chickpeas being a great ingredient and protein source, their excuses for plastic packaging and their lack of transparency about any of their production methods, locations or supply chain threw me off. Obela is an endeavour of the PepsiCo and Strauss Group brand which leads me to be extremely skeptical about the pollution and sustainability of the company. If my protein options are Obela hummus or meat, I would still definitely choose the Obela hummus. But if my options are Obela hummus and another hummus brand, I would definitely be inclined to buy from a more transparent and sustainable brand.
Ingredients: Cooked chickpeas (72%) (water, chickpeas), sesame paste(14%), rapeseed oil, water, sea salt, acidifier citric acid, garlic, cumin, preservative potassium sorbate.
The main ingredient in hummus is obviously chickpeas. Chickpeas have been becoming increasingly popular as they are a nutritious and healthy plant-based protein source and a great alternative to meat protein.
Obela has shown a lot of certificates and tests for their products:
Obela’s hummus is kosher, vegan and gluten free certified. In Germany, it is given a Nutriscore of A which evaluates the nutritious value of a product, indicating that the Obela Hummus is low in fats, saturated fats and salt. Therefore, it is easy to identify a healthy product. In addition, Obela has the German quality certification with the best grade ‘very good’ (sehr gut), which also examined for harmful substances in the food like glyphosate, cadmium or mineral oil components.
Under Obela’s Hummus and Sustainability tab, the first large heading to see is that “*Chickpeas are good for the climate” and they state 4 reasons for that. *Firstly, they state that the correct cultivation of chickpeas does not leach out the soil and enriches the soil with nutrients. Secondly, chickpeas require less harmful nitrogen fertiliser as the plant draws nitrogen from the air. These states reasons are valid and make a good case for chickpea agriculture.
Obela’s next two reasons compare chickpea production as a competing protein source for meat production, showing that chickpea production uses a lot less water around 2 thousand times less water than beef as well as having a lower carbon footprint. Whilst this is true and chickpeas are a sustainable protein source, Obela used a marketing strategy that creates especially positive framing around their product by comparing it to the most harmful food product in the industry. However, as a person who does not have meat on the menu, I want to know why I should buy Obela’s hummus and not the hummus of the competitor. You convinced me that chickpeas are great, but how are you producing, processing and packaging them?
They acknowledge that plastic is a problem, however, they justify their packaging the following way: they ensure it is recyclable, they care about preserving their product fresh to prevent foodwaste and they try to keep their CO2 emissions from transportation low, which means that they prioritise light weight plastic over heavy glass materials – they have a suggestion form for their packaging. Whilst the explanation sounds reasonable and convincing, Obela is avoiding to talk about why they do not use recycled plastics or bio-plastics which is a very obvious solution to their plastic-problem. The suggestion tab is a clever strategy to pretend to care about the plastic problem, however, PepsiCo already placed a target for reducing virgin plastics and only reduced it by 1% from 2018 to 2019. They have the solutions – the implementation is what is lacking.
There was no information about how and where the hummus was produced and what the impact of the hummus factories are. If I consider that Obela is a PepsiCo brand, who have had devastatingly negative impact on the environment, my inclination on supporting their hummus in particular decreases drastically.
Obela’s website does not say anything on where and by whom their products are produced. They significantly lack transparency and clarity about their production process.
With further research I found that Obela was created as a partnership between Strauss Group and PepsiCo in 2011, after their success with Sabra’s Dips and Spreads in North America. They have production in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. In Europe, their hummus production is in the Netherlands in the organic production company Florentin, which Obela bought and now jointly creates dips and spreads with them.
About the supply chain of the hummus ingredients I could not find out much other than that they have “ carefully chosen farmers and growers who know the land” , which is an extremely poor job for such big companies. Of course Strauss Group and PepsiCo do have sustainability reports and initiatives, however, Obela production or chickpea sourcing was not to find in them.