U.S. Grown Rice is Nutritious and Sustainably-Grown, Now Add Fancy

2018 Fancy Food Show welcome signage hanging from ceiling in convention centerNEW YORK, NY – The 64th Annual Summer Fancy Food Show wrapped up here earlier this month with more than 200,000 products being showcased across six football fields worth of exhibit space and the most popular grain on earth, rice, was flying the flag as both an ingredient and as a food unto itself.

“This show is all about innovation, responding to trends, and identifying and getting in front of new ones,” said Michael Klein, USA Rice vice president of domestic promotion, who attended the show and covered more than 26 miles exploring the offerings.  “I saw a lot of rice being used in traditional and new exciting ways – and there wasn’t a day part where rice wasn’t a factor.”

U.S.-grown rice is a mainstay at breakfast tables around the country through popular cereals like Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, but could a warm rice porridge start to make inroads?  Already popular in Asia, a few exhibitors were trying to generate excitement around this trend and bring it here with pre-packaged bowls of small scorched rice bits and flavoring – savory for lunchtime, sweet for breakfast.

“In our house in the winter we make a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast with brown rice, milk, and honey that is delicious and filling,” Klein said.  “These exhibitors are knocking on that door, and as long as they are using U.S.-grown rice, we’re all for it.”

Klein said the scorched rice products stood out as an interesting snack idea.

“Serious rice eaters know that bit of rice that sometimes gets stuck to the bottom of your pot is a delicious treat,” he said.  “This company is taking those thin bits, toasting them some more, and then packaging them as scorched rice snacks – a great innovation and twist on traditional rice cakes.”

Element Snacks is also doing their part to reinvent rice cakes, making them very thin and finishing the snacks in dark or milk chocolate, vanilla-orange, or strawberry and cream topping.  It’s all organic and exclusively U.S.-grown rice.  California’s Lundberg Family Farms was another U.S. rice exhibitor, who drew a crowd to their booth distributing samples of their Organic Grounded Snacks like Red Rice & Quinoa chips.

Many show exhibitors used rice to showcase sauces and interesting flavors, and Riviana Foods, Inc. had their comprehensive rice product line on display, touting their U.S.-grown and organic lines with traditional, and new and exciting flavor profiles.  

“The specialty food business is an entirely different business than traditional retail and you have to cover both,” said Paul Galvani, senior vice president at Riviana Foods and chairman of the USA Rice Domestic Promotion Committee.  “Here we get the opportunity to be in front of distributors and customers from both independent and major chains, and we always get interest in our line because of the diversity of products we offer, showcasing of course our American rice.”

No specialty foods show would be complete without a consideration of gluten free eating that continues to grow in popularity.  This trend continues to present opportunities for rice and rice flour, although other plant-based gluten free flour products were also trying to appeal to innovators.

“The stand out rice-based product for me was the ice cream,” Klein said.  “In particular the My/Mo mochi ice cream bites that only use U.S.-grown rice to make their sticky rice dough.  The combination of high-quality ice cream with the delicious rice dough is going to be huge and will open a whole new channel for U.S. rice that didn’t exist just a few years ago.”

Klein said he hopes to see even more U.S.-grown rice and rice co-products at future shows.

“The consumers the fancy food manufacturers are pursuing have values that line up perfectly with U.S.-grown rice:  sustainable, local, and GMO-free,” Klein said.  “We need to be sure manufacturers and distributors of specialty foods are aware that U.S.-grown rice is the answer for them.”