Rice Farming

 - From the Editor -

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

By Carroll Smith

When I was a child, the staple fare at the breakfast table was a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice. Like all mothers interested in their children’s health, mine was influenced by ads promoting a new concentrated nutrition cereal with defatted wheat germ and 10 minerals and vitamins.

At first, we were intrigued by the small gold box. We poured our usual bowl full, covered it with milk and dug in. After we had licked out the last spoonful, our bellies began to swell uncomfortably. In hindsight, we probably tried to eat too much of it at once, not realizing that it was “concentrated.”

But we were kids and probably didn’t even know what concentrated meant. All we knew is that we didn’t want any more of what was in the little gold box. In fact, we went on strike and refused to eat it at all.

No amount of coaxing could make us change our mind. So mom went to plan B. Next, she brought home a nice, fluffy cereal that not only was tasty but also came with three cartoon characters on the box and made sounds when we poured on the milk. The three elves – Snap, Crackle and Pop – soon became our new best friends, the carton mascots for – you guessed it – Rice Krispies. This one example shows that mascots can be powerful, positive, symbolic figures for almost anything – a sports team, organizations, events, and yes, even food.

Recently, the USA Rice Federation developed a mascot that “represents and promotes U.S. rice all over the world, without raising any negative associations in any country,” according to USA Rice’s Hartwig Schmidt, regional director Europe/Africa/Middle East. Thus, “Ricky Rice” was born.

Ricky is young, vibrant, trustworthy, a reliable source of information about American rice and confident enough to talk to a variety of audiences in many languages. The U.S. rice mascot has a fun, friendly relaxed manner and travels around the world promoting U.S. rice. Ricky is shaped like a grain of rice, wearing a chef’s hat and giving the “thumbs up” signal.

Schmidt says the Ricky Rice concept was tested in the Middle East markets of Saudi Arabia and Jordan and received extremely positive results. To add U.S. appeal, Ricky was surrounded by a circle of white stars on a red background and tested in Turkey to gauge his suitability as a global character. Schmidt says the stars and stripes were then moved to Ricky’s chef’s hat for a subtle American appeal, creating a version of the mascot that could be used in promotions in the Middle East to avoid any negative sentiments.

To see Ricky for yourself, visit www.usarice.com, click on Industry Affairs, 2007 USA Rice Outlook Presentations, then Meet “Ricky Rice.”

Thumbs up!