100% Achla Preservative-Free Hummus
Remove the preservatives and retain the flavor and manufacture the product at a reasonable cost? The technology behind the “100% Achla” preservative-free hummus series
By: Prof. Eyal Shimoni and Dagan Eshel
Preservative-free Hummus. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not quite.
This “simplicity” officially saw the light of day around five years ago, but it actually started long before then. Generations of Achla technologists never stopped thinking, planning and trying to manufacture hummus of this kind. Sometimes efforts just failed, sometimes it was too expensive, and sometimes investing in the equipment was out of the question.
What was clear to everyone, however, was that no loose thread would be left unraveled and no stone unturned, but the mission seemed impossible: remove the preservatives and retain the flavor and manufacture the product at a reasonable cost?
And then, five years ago, we identified a new heating technology at Alpha Strauss, one that allows products to be heated using a method that is so smart and accurate that their flavor is not affected.
We brought all the technologists from all our business units in Israel together at a workshop hosted by a young startup company to see, play and imagine. We hoped that the “bait” would hook the tech people, and to tell the truth we weren’t surprised when the people from the salad company were the first to suggest using the technology to manufacture preservative-free hummus.
We approached entrepreneurs to look into development possibilities.
The development of a prototype for a machine came at a hefty price of over one million dollars… At this point we stepped up the process and embarked on a worldwide search for companies using the same technology for other purposes. After several months we found a few, and one of them – an Italian company – matched the profile. Although the company does not specialize in food, it definitely specializes in technology, and as opposed to other companies, its employees had that sparkle in their eyes that aspires to doing new things. The love affair began when we sent Guy Tsur, a senior technologist in Strauss Israel’s engineering HQ who has a lot of experience in salads, dips and spreads in Israel and at Sabra, to Italy. After two trips by Guy and a visit by the Italians to Israel it was obvious that there was definitely an iron in the fire…
Now came the “how” question: How does a small BU execute and finance a long, expensive development project with a high risk profile?
When the trials were completed we had preservative-free hummus with a long shelf life, and the taste wasn't bad. But "not bad" is not good enough for us
This time, under the joint leadership of the salad company, engineering HQ and Alpha, we built a development plan together with the Italian firm and sought supplementary funding from the R&D program run by the Israel Innovation Authority at the Ministry of Economics (formerly the Chief Scientist). Once the plan was approved we faced a long development process of some 18 months, with the team running production trials in Italy, testing the results in Israel and so forth.
When the trials were completed we had preservative-free hummus with a long shelf life, and the taste wasn't bad. But "not bad" is not good enough for us, and we had to take another risk: to be certain that we were able to manufacture a perfect product, there was no choice but to build a new production line in Karmiel.
The investment was approved by the unit management and the management of Strauss Israel, and the teams set out to plan a completely new production line to manufacture hummus on the basis of the joint development with the Italians. The entire planning and execution process was managed by the engineering and tech teams of Strauss Israel and the salad company.
Then, another six months of procurement and setup, and six more months of development, testing and various regulatory approvals, with everyone determined to introduce a simple product (which turned out to be not at all simple) to market, but armed with a lot of patience and effort it certainly is possible.
Thus, the 100% Achla preservative-free Hummus series was born.