HAVERHILL (CBS) – Located on the New Hampshire border, Haverhill was originally known as Pantucket, Native American for “place of the winding river,” which essentially describes the path of the Merrimack River across the community. Alexander Graham Bell worked here as a tutor. And, in the early 1900’s, one-tenth of all the shoes produced in America were made in Haverhill.
Today, a manufacturer is still the largest employer in Haverhill, but instead of shoe leather, they are working with chickpeas. Lots of them. This is Cedar’s Hommus, one of the largest manufacturers of the spread in the United States.
“We do things like the old homemade method like they used to do in the old country,” explained chief operating officer Nick Scangas as he walked us through the massive plant.
They soak the peas for up to 14 hours just like they did in the old days, but the rest of the operation is all high-tech. Massive tanks hold batches with thousands of pounds of the creamy spread in all kinds of different flavors. They are then pushed through a system of pipes into the packaging room.
The company is still family-owned and is still working with the recipe Abe Hanna brought back from Lebanon and started selling locally in 1981.
“Back then, hummus was a funny word, a funny product. Nobody knew what it was,” marketing director Aimee Tsakirellis told WBZ-TV.
According to Tsakairellis, back in those days, the Merrimack Valley had a large population of immigrants from the Middle East, and the Hannas realized there was no one else making this dietary staple from their homeland. They partnered with a local grocery store chain and the business started to grow, little by little.
A lot has changed since then, from their high-tech, proprietary process of making the hummus, to all kinds of unique flavors. They’ve also experimented with trendy ingredients like sriracha, chipotle, and even dark chocolate.
“We push out two million pounds of hummus every week,” Tsakirellis explained. “Imagine in 1981 making a couple of packages in the kitchen to now, we are shipping two-million pounds of hummus coast-to-coast and everywhere in between. It’s the perfect American Dream story.”
The company has now expanded to make many other products like salsa, tabbouleh and salads.