Chickpeas Are Getting the Cauliflower Treatment (Aka They’re Everywhere)

Photo: Stocky/Sophia Hsin; Graphic: Well+Good Creative
Hummus has long been a wellness staple—a tub of it would be right at home beside a bag of home-cooked granola in your wellness starter kit. But this is a new decade, and chickpeas are being transformed into healthier, high-protein versions of classic comfort foods, from pasta and rice to chips and ice cream. And consumers are eating it up.

Kelly Landrieu, the global coordinator of local brands for Whole Foods, says she’s definitely seen an uptick in the number of chickpea-based products lining store shelves, from both new brands and established ones. To name just a few: Banza’s chickpea pasta and rice (a plant-based boxed mac-and-cheese is coming in January 2020), Hippeas’ and Biena Snacks’ chickpea puffs, Delighted By’s dessert hummus, Lebby Snacks’ chocolate-covered chickpeas (AKA the new Whoppers), Nutriati’s chickpea mylk, P.S. Snacks’ chickpea cookie dough, and Little Chickpea’s chickpea ice cream. In 2020, chickpea comfort foods will even be entering the restaurant space, a priority Banza co-founder Brian Rudolph announced after the brand secured $20 million in funding in November.

Why the garbanzo explosion? “Chickpeas are versatile, nutritionally dense, allergen-friendly, and inexpensive as an ingredient,” Landrieu says. “They’re also familiar to consumers, so even if the product isn’t something they’ve seen before, it’s easier to convince them to give it a try.” (For the record, registered dietitian Shawn Wells, RD, says this trend gets his stamp of approval, citing the ingredient as a good source of protein—especially for non-meat eaters.)

Landrieu also points out that chickpeas are smack-dab in the middle of the Venn diagram of four other wellness trends du jour: plant-based foods, pulses and beans, products created from by-products (like aquafaba, or chickpea water, which is often used as a vegan-friendly alternative for egg whites), and better-for-you snacking. “We’re seeing this ‘back to basics’ movement,” says Onur Oz, founder and CEO of Lebby Chickpea Snacks, adding that health-conscious shoppers are looking for products with short ingredients’ lists filled with items they recognize. “[People] are now aware of preservatives, chemicals, and unknown ingredients in our foods and no longer want to put up with them…[We’re] seeking natural products to satisfy our cravings,” he says.

“We’re seeing this ‘back to basics’ movement...[We’re] seeking natural products to satisfy our cravings.” — Onur Oz, founder and CEO of Lebby Chickpea Snacks

With brands in this space receiving increased funding, you can expect even more chickpea-based products to become widely available. Biena Snacks, for one, recently secured $8 million, a portion of which will be dedicated to product innovation. “We’re always exploring what’s next, staying up-to-date with trends, and listening to what consumers want out of their snacks,” founder and CEO Poorvi Patodia says. Over at Banza, Rudolph says the brand’s chickpea rice is still new—with plans for wider release in 2020—but consumers are already starting to rave about it on social media, the same way they did for the pasta when it was released (which was tagged over 30,000 times on Instagram in 2019). This is in addition to, of course, the brand’s plans to enter the foodservice space.

Chances are there’s still a tub of hummus in your fridge, and with this new crop of products in grocery stores now, chickpeas are proving to be the next big chameleon of the healthy food world.

But wait, there's more! Click here to read the rest of our 2020 Wellness Trends predictions.

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