LOCAL FLAVOR: RT Chats with Ithaca Hummus

Our new hummus obsession is the freshest, most homemade-tasting we’ve found. Ithaca Hummus will stand up to all your chips, crackers, and veggies, and makes an AMAZING sandwich spread or salad topper. We sat down with Ithaca Cold-Crafted founder and president Chris Kirby to see what makes their hummus so tasty and their mission, so admirable.

RT: What’s the origin story of Ithaca Hummus?
CK: We started out at a stand in the Ithaca Farmers’ Market; selling one flavor of hummus (Lemon Garlic) which we made fresh for our customers every day. We made deliveries to local Co-ops ourselves, packing the hummus in coolers on ice and into our cars for delivery all over upstate NY. It wasn’t the easiest or most efficient system, but it was what we needed to do to keep the hummus fresh. Our food ethos is to keep the flavors of our raw ingredients alive, and this idea is really what unites us as an organization. It’s the common goal that we all work for, it’s what we’re passionate about, and it’s what makes our hummus taste so fresh.

RT: What was the impetus behind the creation of Ithaca Hummus? In other words…why hummus?
CK: Hummus is becoming a staple item in the U.S. and we felt like there was a huge difference in flavor between what we could make ourselves at home and the premade stuff in the grocery store. We thought there needed to be a better option for people like us who were unimpressed with bland tasting store-bought hummus, but didn’t want to go through the annoyance of making it themselves at home.

RT: What makes Ithaca Hummus different from other hummus out there?
CK: ‘This hummus tastes so much fresher than any other brand.’ That’s what we hear from almost every person who tries it. Customers want to know why, and honestly, the answer isn’t a simple one. Unfortunately, food manufacturing has become a very industrialized practice in our country. Artificial ingredients, heat pasteurization, and preservatives all have a very negative impact on the nutrients in our food and the way it tastes. We’re using cold-pressed, raw ingredients that are never heated or compromised with preservatives. So, it’s really a combination of selecting super fresh ingredients and being very intentional about the way that we process them that makes our hummus taste so fresh and unique.

RT: What’s an interesting thing about Ithaca Hummus that most people don’t know? 
CK: We have an entire section of our facility that is dedicated to handling raw produce and cold pressing the fresh juices we use in our hummus. I think we are the only hummus company that is part cold-pressed juicery.

RT: What’s the latest news from Ithaca Hummus? Anything new in the pipeline we should know about?
CK: We are a passionate team and we love food so of course we’re always thinking up new product ideas, but we think it’s important to incorporate customer feedback into the ideation stage of new product development. What we’re hearing most frequently from customers today is that they just want more of what we’re already doing. Right now, we are focused on making our products more accessible and increasing our distribution. In the next month, we’ll be launching a direct to consumer online store and we are working on developing larger sizes of our current flavors.

RT: When you’re not noshing on fresh hummus… What are you loving to eat right now? What is your top go-to (snack, drink, wellness product or other)?
CK: Emmy’s Organics Coconut Cookies. If you haven’t tried these they are indulgent little superfood bites that are perfect for a quick snack. Our favorite is the Dark Cacao flavor.

RT: How has it been to open a business in NY State? What’s it like to be a “local” food business?
CK: New York State (specifically Tompkins County) was an awesome place to launch our business. We have had the full support of local organizations like the farmer’s market and cooperative extension from the beginning. When we opened our first plant in 2015, Tompkins County Area Development helped us with the loans we needed to buy equipment and get started. Small “local” businesses are usually too risky for traditional bank financing, so without local organizations like TCAD we wouldn’t have been able to grow as fast as we have.

 RT: As an extension of the last question…so many in our community dream of starting their own local business. What’s your one piece of advice for launching a successful local biz? 
CK: The difference between an idea and a business is customers. To thrive, a business needs to solve a real problem that its customers are facing. Ask yourself: what is the value proposition of my business? Ours is: hummus at the grocery store that tastes like it just came out of the blender. Multiply the impact of the problem your business solves times the number of customers that face the problem. That’s the value your business creates in the world. Starting a business is hard work. Make sure you’re not putting all that hard work towards an idea that there aren’t any customers for.

**ON SALE ALL MONTH: Rising Tide has all three flavors of Ithaca Hummus (Lemon Dill, Beet, Garlic) on sale for the month of November. Regularly $5.79, now $4.99. Pick some up for Thanksgiving!**

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