Think Rice Road Trip Taps into U.S.’s Largest Rice Market

Green pickup truck with designs & words "Get Creative, Start With Rice," sits behind table with USA Rice banner and stacks of boxes on top
Rice Truck set up
Oct 02, 2018
MILWAUKEE, WI – The newest promotion program that focuses on the U.S. rice industry’s largest market – the domestic one – is the Think Rice Road Trip.  USA Rice acquired a Ford F-150 from Cavanaugh Lincoln Ford in Jonesboro, Arkansas, wrapped the vehicle with messages and delicious looking rice images, and set off on a 4,000-mile trip to distribute 3,000 household rice cookers obtained from Aroma Housewares, and more than 3,000 one and two pound samples of U.S.-grown rice donated by USA Rice members.

The team left Crowley, Louisiana on Monday, September 24 and over the next seven days traveled 2,200 miles, conducted 16 events, and made Road Trip-specific donations to four charitable organizations in two states.  

The crew interacted with more than 800 consumers, distributed 725 consumer rice cookers and more than 850 pounds of rice, as well as five commercial cookers and 400 pounds of bulk rice to organizations working with the chronically homeless and families in crisis in St. Louis and the greater Chicago area.

“It felt really great to be able to make these donations on behalf of the industry,” said Deborah Willenborg, USA Rice director of communications and one of three drivers for the trip.  “To see the excitement on the faces of the volunteers, and to let them know that they are not alone, that someone else cares and wants to help; I will remember that feeling for the rest of my life.”

The group used social media, word of mouth, and local media appearances to drive awareness of their activities and they had no trouble distributing all the rice cookers they had designated for each location.

“At first people were sometimes skeptical, ‘Free? What’s the catch?’ they’d ask, but once we explained all they had to do was fill out a card with their name and email and answer a few questions about their rice routine, they were quite excited,” said Cameron Jacobs, USA Rice manager of domestic promotion and trip driver.  “More than a few people told me we made their day and that they were going home to make rice for dinner!”

“We explained to people that we were working for U.S. rice farmers and millers and that they wanted Americans to eat more rice.   And while using a rice cooker is not the only way to cook rice, it is pretty foolproof,” explained Michael Klein, USA Rice vice president of domestic promotion.

Willenborg said it was interesting to note that of the hundreds and hundreds of people she talked to, nobody had a negative impression or bad word to say about rice.  “They maybe didn’t know it was grown in the United States until we talked to them, but so many of them said they eat a lot of rice or that their family loves rice.  It was nice to hear.”

The team is returning to USA Rice headquarters in Virginia while the Think Rice Truck is transported to Seattle, Washington.  A Pacific Northwest leg will begin in mid-October with stops throughout western Washington and Oregon and possibly Vancouver, BC, Canada.  A California leg is planned for November and the truck will be at the USA Rice Outlook Conference in San Diego in December, where it will be raffled off.  

You can follow along with the team by watching #RideWithRice on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and monitoring the USA Rice YouTube page for exclusive videos from inside the truck.