If you’re a regular attendee of Red Deer’s Public Market, you’ve probably seen Jason Foui on the other side of a hummus container.
The owner of Humble Hummus is an enthusiastic promoter of the chickpea-based food, routinely urging prospective buyers to try his products. He even pitched them at a CBC audition for Dragons’ Den a few weeks ago.
“You can literally live off hummus,” said Foui. “It’s got all the proteins and all the carbs and everything that you need.”
For busy people, hummus is quick and easy to eat, he added. And perhaps most importantly, there’s no need to hold your nose while consuming it.
“The key thing above all is that it’s tasty.”
Foui has ramped up the palate appeal of his hummus by offering flavours like black pepper and lime, roasted red pepper, super uber garlic, lemon dill, hot and spicy, and humble spice with jalapenos, chili peppers, cayenne peppers, garlic and lemon. He’s produced more than 25 flavours, including bacon, and peanut butter and chocolate.
“For Thanksgiving we did apple pie,” said Foui, adding that he also offered a stuffing-flavoured hummus containing cranberries, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Available in Red Deer at Big Bend Market, West Park Market and Cafe Pichilingue, and also sold at Blackfalds Family Foods and through Lacombe-based TheGreenPantry.ca, Humble Hummus stacks up favourably against alternatives, said Foui. One reason for this is that it’s made with dried chickpeas rather than the canned variety.
“It takes a lot of work to soak those beans and rehydrate them,” he said, adding, however, that the effort is worth it.
“If you taste the two beside each other, you notice the difference.”
Selling only fresh, locally made hummus with no additives or preservatives is also important, said Foui.
His approach seems to be working, with buyers from across Alberta. Foui has even had an inquiry from Texas.
“We’ve almost doubled ourselves every single year,” he said of sales, crediting his girlfriend Syfronia Bonnell for her ongoing help.
Foui, who is an afternoon announcer with 106.7 The Drive, ate hummus while growing up in Winnipeg. But he’d forgotten about the high-protein food until about six years ago, when someone offered him some.
Hummus was an ideal snack for a busy, physically active person like himself, Foui decided. He was soon making his own, and after a bit of encouragement started selling at the public market in 2009.
“The first week I sold hummus there, it was not good,” acknowledged Foui.
“I thought people would come up to me and want to buy it.”
Undeterred, he started persuading passers-by to taste his hummus.
“Instead of standing behind the counter at the farmers’ market, I stood in front of it — and that’s where everything changed.”
Just over a year ago, Foui began making Humble Hummus in Big Bend Market’s kitchen facilities, and selling year-round. Now he’d like to expand his retail network to include bigger stores, and perhaps some in Calgary and Edmonton. Cities elsewhere are a possibility for the future.
This was part of Foui’s motivation for seeking help from an investment mogul on Dragons’ Den. The producer he auditioned in front of provided positive feedback, but Foui realizes he’ll need to spice up his presentation if he wants to win a spot on national TV.
“I’ll go in there blazing,” he promised.
Regardless of his success with Dragons’ Den, Foui is determined to grow Humble Hummus.
“This is something that’s going to happen with or without help.”
When expansion does occur, it will require the development of commercial kitchens near the new markets, so that Humble Hummus’s “local and fresh” theme is maintained.
“We’re not in the business of shipping hummus and just trying to make a buck off of preserved hummus.”
Additional information about Humble Hummus can be found online at www.humblehummus.com. The business will conduct a taste test this Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the south side location of Big Bend Market.