National Rice Month
September kickoff begins in groceries,
By Brenda Carol
Broad-based consumer promotional campaigns are critical to the success of any commodity these days. The USA Rice Federation, sponsor of the National Rice Month promotion, celebrates U.S.-grown rice in September to bring awareness of the important role the grain plays in the everyday life of people all over the world.
“September was chosen as National Rice Month since it is when most rice-growing states harvest their rice crop, giving us the opportunity to recognize and celebrate America’s rice farmers and all members of the U.S. rice industry,” says Molly Johnson, Director, Retail Trade and Special Promotions at the USA Rice Federation. “It was officially declared in 1991 when both houses of Congress and the President of the United States endorsed September as National Rice Month. Our goal is to increase awareness of U.S.-grown rice, while simultaneously recognizing the contribution the U.S. rice industry makes to America’s economy.”
Over a billion consumers exposed to U.S. rice
The USA Rice Federation provides a turn-key promotion that retailers and members of the U.S. rice industry can leverage to promote American-grown rice. Promotion spending on the part of rice product manufacturers and retailers for National Rice Month is estimated at $12 million. In 2007, National Rice Month activities exposed 300 million consumers to U.S. rice and resulted in 7,300 in-store rice displays in 43 states.
U.S. rice farmers grow and supply more than 80 percent of the rice Americans consume each year. The United States produces only 1.5 to 2 percent of the world’s annual rice supply, but is the world’s fourth largest exporter of rice.
“The export market remains strong,” Johnson says. “U.S. rice exports this year are projected to increase 23 percent from the 2006/07 crop year, and the United States remains one of the few reliable, stable sources for high-quality rice.”
Although there has been much publicity lately about rice shortages and higher retail prices, the value to the consumer is still intact, according to Johnson. “Many factors are driving the higher prices,” she says. “U.S. farmers are facing high fuel and fertilizer costs and are experiencing the same price volatilities felt by consumers. However, at a price of 10 cents per serving, rice remains one of the best bargains on the plate.”
Retailers see September rice sales increase
USA Rice conducts several promotions designed to encourage retailers to create in-store displays for rice. Store manager display contests, incentive programs for U.S. rice miller sales representatives and customized promotion programs with major retailers lead to thousands of rice displays. It pays off big for grocery stores, too.
Retailers who participate in the National Rice Month Store Contest – using materials supplied by USA Rice – see average rice increases of 50 to 400 percent. USA Rice provides retailers and member companies with attractive display signs featuring easy-to-prepare U.S. rice recipes.
“The average consumer doesn’t know what they’re making for dinner at 4:00 p.m. Capturing consumers as they’re making their buying decision and giving them ideas on how to prepare rice is key to increasing U.S. rice sales in September,” Johnson says.
In June, the USA Rice Federation will recognize Alpha 1 Marketing as their Retail Partner of the Year at the USA Rice Millers’ Association convention in Napa, Calif. Alpha 1 increased their rice sales in September by 450 percent by developing merchandising and marketing programs for more than 230 C-Town, Bravo and AIM supermarkets in New York and New Jersey. The stores promoted U.S. rice in weekly newspaper ads, massive floor-to-ceiling end-cap displays, competitive price points, customized point-of-sale materials and in-store cross-promotions with items featured as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Krasdale Foods, Alpha 1’s wholesaler and sister company, is also being recognized for its support of National Rice Month as the product supplier to these stores.
“Our entire team is very proud to receive this award on behalf of Alpha 1, Krasdale Foods and the C-Town, Bravo and AIM independent retailers,” says Rich DeSimone, vice president of sales and marketing for Alpha 1. “We have a strong Hispanic customer base and promoting National Rice Month and Hispanic Heritage Month is a natural combination based on the importance of rice in Hispanic culture.”
A very important component of the National Rice Month grassroots promotion is the opportunity for high school juniors and seniors in rice-growing areas to qualify for college scholarships.
A grand prize of $3,500, plus an expense-paid trip in December to the USA Rice Outlook Conference in Little Rock, Ark., will be awarded to the student who develops the winning promotional campaign for National Rice Month. In addition to the grand prize, USA Rice is offering eight additional scholarship awards, ranging from $250 to $2,000. Eligible students, whose families are directly involved in the rice industry in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, can qualify to enter by conducting a promotional campaign in their local community during September with U.S.-grown rice as the central theme.
For information on the National Rice Month retail program, go to www.usarice.com/retail. For scholarship information, go to www.usarice.com/industry, or call Randy Jemison at (337) 738-7009 or Chuck Wilson at (870) 673-7541.
Brenda Carol is a freelance writer based in California. Contact
her at (805) 226-9896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.