Taste Radio Insider Episode 55

The Profitable Way To Build a Disruptive Brand

+ Chris Kirby, Ithaca Craft Hummus


The tagline for Ithaca Craft Hummus is simple and direct: “This Hummus Tastes Fresh.” For founder/president Chris Kirby, the mission to build a disruptive yet profitable brand is just as clear cut.

Launched in 2013, Ithaca’s ultra fresh flavor — derived from cold-pressed ingredients and non-thermal pasteurization — has helped the brand build a consumer following and gain placement in thousands of retail stores across the country, including Wegmans, The Fresh Market and Publix.

Throughout Ithaca’s development, Kirby has emphasized a scrappy approach to growth that’s based on strong relationships with his co-packer and retail partners. The result has been a lean, profitable operation that is now one of the fastest-growing hummus brands in the U.S.. 

In an interview included in this episode, Kirby spoke how he identified white space in the hummus category and what he learned during four years of operating his own production facility. He also urged entrepreneurs to be thoughtful about their retail relationships and deliberate about expenses, and discussed why he hires people that are highly self-sufficient.

In this Episode

1:44: There’s Gold In This Discussion About U.K. Brands and “No-gronis” — The hosts convened for a wide-ranging chat about John and Mike’s visit to London, where they attended the recently held Bread and Jam festival. Along with BevNET/NOSH brand specialist Melissa Traverse, they discussed the investment environment and sourcing challenges for U.K.-based food and beverage brands, and what it takes to go to market in the U.S. They also riffed on gold-plated Kit Kat bars, dessert hummus and John’s impressive grasp of soccer lingo. Finally, they spoke about the latest edition of BevNET Magazine, news and incentives related to BevNET Live and NOSH Live and what the future might hold for non-alcoholic cocktails. 
28:29: Interview: Chris Kirby, Founder/President, Ithaca Craft Hummus — Kirby sat down with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif at BevNET HQ, where he spoke about his background as a trained chef, the formulation of Ithaca hummus and why it initially benefited the brand to stay narrow and focused on velocity instead of store count. He also explained why producing the hummus in-house was the “most difficult four years” of his life, and how the experience was critical to the brand’s relationship with co-packer and equity partner LiDestri Foods. Later, he discussed Ithaca’s marketing and communication strategy, how the brand strives to “make it easy” for fans to become ambassadors, and how carefully crafted success stories have been key to landing placement at new retailers. Finally, Kirby spoke about why profitability “has always been a really important piece” of his business strategy and why he advises entrepreneurs to be “very intentional about what you’re spending and why.”

Also Mentioned

Ithaca Craft Hummus, GT’s Kombucha, Delighted by Desserts, Tribe Hummus, Sabra, Joseph’s Hummus, Cedar’s, Kit Kat, Ugly Drinks, TaDah Foods, Kind Snacks, The Bitter Housewife, Bitters & Soda, Seedlip, White Claw, Everleaf Drinks, Three Spirit, Fix8 Kombucha