Management

How Sabra’s New CEO is Leading the Plant-Based Food Company Into the Future

Joey Bergstein, the CEO of Sabra Dipping Company
Joey Bergstein, the CEO of Sabra Dipping Company.
| Courtesy of Sabra Dipping Company

As the CEO of Sabra Dipping Company, Joey Bergstein is working to get as many dips as he can into more homes and on family dining room tables—and he is driven with one mission in mind: “to spark an amazing force for good in the world,” he says.

At a time when interest in plant-based eating is rapidly growing, Bergstein is excited to lead a company known for its vegetarian-only products. “I am inspired by the opportunity to make delicious food even more enticing, abundant, and accessible so we can drive changes in consumer behavior for better eating and to benefit our environment,” he says.

Here, Bergstein shares what makes the company culture stand out, how chickpeas are more than just an ingredient for hummus, and why being a good listener has been crucial to his success as a leader.

What initially attracted you to the CEO role at Sabra?

Given what we know about the world we share, it is imperative that we change our collective consumption behavior. I believe food companies can play a powerful role. So at a time when interest in plant-based eating is on the rise in the U.S., Sabra is incredibly relevant and well positioned for significant growth.

Of course, it is important to believe in your product and your brand. I love hummus. I love its versatility—dip, spread, and snack. The idea of helping shape the future of Sabra was immediately compelling to me.

Lastly, I connect on a personal level with this company and its direction. Sabra’s commitment to uniting and delighting the world around planet-positive food aligns seamlessly with my values and the good I want to create in this world. That, I believe, is a recipe for success.

What are the core responsibilities as the CEO of Sabra Dipping Company?

I’m responsible for the vision and strategic direction of the company to ensure its future growth and development. I’m also focused on connecting our business commitments and our societal responsibilities—ensuring the safety of our employees, producing a safe, delicious product for our consumers, and being a force for good, which includes making sustainability a priority across every area of the business.

In general, I think we look to leaders to keep an eye on the big picture, navigate groups toward great goals, and inspire individuals to achieve their potential. This also means one of my core responsibilities is to listen. I take time to “hear” what consumers are saying, and listen to my team and the marketplace to understand how Sabra can best grow by nourishing people and the planet.

Why is now an exciting time to work for Sabra?

This is a thrilling time to be at Sabra because of what we are doing internally and what’s happening across the markets we serve.

Within the company, we are producing the highest quality hummus ever, and have an incredible team, an inclusive environment, and a collective entrepreneurial spirit that inspires energy, creativity, idea generation, and problem-solving. While we are beloved and best-known for our hummus, Sabra also makes a top-selling guacamole. There is a real opportunity to build on the strengths we have from these top products.

When I look at the marketplace, there is no better company positioned for success. People—myself included—are looking to make small changes that have real benefits. Those might be changes in our diet or lifestyle that can reduce our negative impact on the planet. We know consumers are looking for healthier products that also taste great. Sabra delivers on both.

How have you impacted the culture of the company since taking on the role almost a year ago?

It is important to me to foster a welcoming, inspiring, and open culture. It is critical that team members feel proud of what they bring to our company. That’s only possible if they are in an environment where they are comfortable sharing ideas. Strong brands are a reflection of the insights, experiences, and contributions of a diverse group of people—plus some trial and error!

One of the major areas on which we have focused in the past year is articulating our ambition, purpose, and shared values. These answer the questions of what, why, and how. For me, our purpose of uniting and delighting the world around planet-positive food serves as our North Star. Embedding this across our organization serves as a filter through which we make choices about what we will pursue and what we pause.

What are your short- and long-term goals for the company?

My short-term goal is to get Sabra into more homes and on more family dining tables weekly. Short-term goals are in service of long-term objectives. So we expect to drive significant category growth, which in turn should accelerate our growth and enable us to look at new opportunities for the company. I see Sabra establishing permanent residency in every fridge. When it comes to our people, I have one goal: that we are always a brand they feel incredibly proud to work for.

In what ways does the mission of Sabra align with your own?

My personal mission and Sabra’s are unmistakably linked. In just my first year, I see so many opportunities for this company to propel mission-driven growth into the future. Outstanding work is already being done to share a worldview that embraces the role hummus can play in bringing people and cultures together. Hummus isn’t just part of a plant-based trend. It’s a recipe that’s been around for centuries and made using whole foods such as chickpeas, sesame, and garlic. In a world where we are rediscovering the delicious simplicity of timeless recipes, Sabra’s hummus is an amazing, delightful, and better-for-you choice.

Some of those values even come through from our most important ingredient: the chickpea. While unassuming, chickpeas are incredible crops; not only do they provide plant-based protein, fiber, and essential nutrients, but they are also planet-positive. Chickpea plants pull nitrogen from the atmosphere and, with naturally occurring microbes at their roots, deposit nutrients into the soil for future crops to consume, enriching the earth and helping sustain the planet as well. They literally leave the earth better than when they were planted. In the coming months and years you’ll hear more about how the team at Sabra is having a positive impact on the people and communities we serve, as well as our planet.

What is your favorite Sabra product and why?

Sabra Pine Nut Hummus. It takes our core hummus and adds a nice flavor that’s just right for me.

What’s one positive change you’ve made to your workday routine since COVID?

Creating the time to run every day (or as much as I can). It clears my head and helps me show up better for our team and for my family.

What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned early in your career?

There are two big lessons from early in my career. First, listen hard—use your eyes, ears, and mouth in the proportion intended. Second, good things come when you take smart but bold risks, both personally and in business. You need to trust your instincts.

Updated 7/21/2022