It’s a bright yellow peanut flavored corn puff and it is Israel’s favorite and best-selling snack. Just why do Israelis love Bamba so much?
This iconic Israeli snack is made from popped corn grits with a coating of peanut butter, and it is baked rather than fried, so it is considered natural and healthy. According to Osem, a small pack of Bamba contains 20% of the vitamins that a child needs each day. Perhaps that is why it is found in millions of lunch boxes every day, and it is a favorite with Israelis of all ages. Mothers are advised that babies can enjoy Bamba from the age of one year, and it has been shown by scientists that the children of mothers who eat Bamba during pregnancy are less likely to develop peanut allergies.
Osem produces 10 million bags of Bamba every month in a small factory in Holon that welcomes visitors. It is fun for kids to see that not every stage of the production process is mechanized and meet veteran employees who have worked for many years on the production and packaging lines. They can watch the Bamba production process from inside the factory, and also meet the iconic Baby Bamba character, who is as widely recognized in Israel as any Disney character.
The Osem factory was opened in 1964 and designed to produce a cheesy corn snack that did not appeal to Israeli tastes. Threatened with closure, the staff tried to come up with an alternative flavor for the snack that would use the same equipment. They tried using peanut butter instead of the cheese flavoring, and children in the local schools who were asked to try the new snack declared it a hit.
During the Six Day War in 1967, the snack was first given to soldiers as part of their field rations, and they took it home to share with their families. It caught on and became an essential part of the Israeli diet, to the extent that during the Gulf War in March 2003, the Knesset declared Bamba a vital staple food, meaning that workers at the Holon Bamba factory could be called in to keep the production lines running as a wartime necessity!
New Bamba flavors include Strawberry Bamba and Bamba with chocolate and halva fillings, but the original flavor is still the favorite. In the lead-up to Pesach the factory works around the clock to produce a kosher-for-Pesach version enjoyed by Sephardim. Bamba is exported around the world where it is particularly popular with expat Israelis, who remember it as an essential part of their childhood.
Thousands of visitors flock to the Bamba factory in Holon every year and their tours are booked up well in advance. Talk to Shatour if you would like to include a visit to the Bamba factory as part of your next visit to Israel.