Another growing season, another harvest, tumultuous in places because of weather and Betsy Ward, President and CEO USA Rice, says “We use National Rice Month (NRM), an annual celebration of our great grain, as a solid foundation on which we can, and do, build quality programs and in the books this means, among other things, that another National Rice Month is also history.”
Building on National Rice Month Betsy Ward said:
Several years ago, we decided to partner with a growing group of influencers—supermarket dietitians. Supermarkets are turning to them to help educate consumers, promote wellness and drive sales. Consumers look to the dietitians to help them make healthy choices, and there’s no question that sustainably grown U.S. rice fits the bill. As in years past, we partnered with six retail chains during NRM to promote U.S.-grown rice, providing recipes, talking points, suggested social media posts and in-store activity concepts. And once again, USA Rice hit a home run. Not only did we reach millions of shoppers through our partnerships, but a 3 ½-minute NRM-inspired cooking segment on KCRA TV in Sacramento, Calif., was picked up by MSN.com and Yahoo News. Those two websites combined have more than 113 million unique visitors each month, increasing our media impressions that month by a factor of 10. In addition, supermarket dietitians with whom we partnered in the past continue to ask for our materials each September, further expanding the reach of our messages and programs.
While we tell the U.S. rice story year-round, we took advantage of harvest this year to target another key group of influencers — chefs. We recognize there are four basic types of restaurants in the United States: a) those that serve U.S.-grown rice; b) those that serve U.S.-grown rice and identify it as such to their customers; c) those that do not serve U.S.-grown rice; and d) those that do not serve rice at all for one reason or another. USA Rice brought six chefs, who together represent more than 900 restaurants nationwide from light to heavy rice users, to the heart of rice country in the Mid-South. Over three days, the chefs toured the Windmill Rice Mill in Jonesboro, Ark., and associated rice farms and got to ride in working combines— a tour highlight for many. The chefs left with not only new recipes developed specifically for their restaurant brands but also with a new appreciation for our industry. One remarked that he hadn’t realized all the work that goes into getting rice from the field to his kitchen and his customers’ plates—but he will now. These chef outreach and dietitian programs are just a small part of what we are doing to tell the story of U.S.-grown rice to increase its use and speed its acceptance. And each success is another building block upon which we expand our programs, our reach and our industry.