Roots business focus on fresh foods

by Laura Long Martin, Celebrate Knoxville.  Matt Parris, owner of Roots Organic Gourmet has been operating out of the River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina since 2006. Roots offers nine flavors of hummus, which are available throughout the Southeastern and Southern Pacific United States in Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Ingles, and dozens of indie grocery stores.

Hummus recipes are found in centuries-old Egyptian books; hummus is high in iron and vitamin C and also has significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6. When looking for a product to develop, Parris, a former cafe’ owner and caterer, said he chose hummus because the recipe was “the oldest one in the book.”

“Our primary theme is about using pure food, and we source locally as much as possible,” Parris said. “I started this business in 2005 with the idea of providing the best hummus and about working to revolutionize the educational system about fresh foods.”


Thai Coconut Curry hummus by Roots features lemongrass, shallots, cumin, kaffir lime, and organic unrefined coconut oil. Photo courtesy Roots Organic Gourmet.

Roots has three main organizations that the business contributes to, Parris said. The first is the Appalachian Susatainable Agriculture Project, which provides scholarships; the second is an organization called Feast, orchestrated by Kate Justin, which develops and uses gardens in schools; and the third is the Whole Kids Foundation, (separate from but originating out of the Whole Foods grocery) that provides grants to schools for gardening projects and teacher/student education about fresh foods.

Parris said that national grocery stores are in transition, with more consumers being interested in fresher foods and local resources. Roots makes every effort to use local resources when available. For example, the bell peppers for the roasted red pepper hummus he makes is locally sourced in season, but he obtains lemon juice from Florida and uses a grower in Washington State for his garbanzo beans.

“After obtaining the freshest ingredients, the rest (of the process) is all about technique,” Parris said. “We work to get the natural flavors in just the right amounts for balance, and we don’t add preservatives to change that balance.”

Besides the original hummus (his first product), Roots hummus flavors include roasted red pepper, extra hot chipotle, black bean, spinach, roasted garlic, thai coconut curry, oil-free original, and lima bean. The foods are vegan, certified non-genetically modified, and gluten-free.

Knoxville residents and visitors interested in trying Roots products may find them at Earth Fare locations: 140 N Forest Park Blvd. and 10903 Parkside Drive.

–Laura Long Martin,, July 2, 2014.