With the majority of the country on lockdown over the last three months and schools and restaurants essentially closed, USA Rice has adapted domestic promotion programming to meet the needs of the changing foodservice and consumer landscapes. The new reality of a much smaller foodservice footprint and a more engaged consumer audience has shifted focus to the at-home consumer.
“With dining out no longer an option for most, Americans are cooking more for themselves,” said Robbie Trahan, a Louisiana rice miller and chair of the USA Rice Domestic Promotion Committee. “We’ve shifted our focus to providing these home cooks with what they need to make use of all the U.S.-grown rice they are stocking up on – recipes, tips, and inspiration.”
Trahan said that while total restaurant sales may have been off by as much as 70 percent in April, nationally rice retail sales are up 33 percent for March 2020 as compared to March 2019, with some retailers reporting a 60 percent increase in total rice sales for those times. USA Rice promotions are responding appropriately.
James Beard-nominated chef and USA Rice foodservice consultant Hari Cameron, fresh off the debut of a series of inspirational rice cooking videos aimed at foodservice operators has also expanded his focus, appearing on local morning news programs to offer quarantine cooking tips that include rice dishes.
USA Rice social media campaigns have increased over the past three months with double the posts keeping followers supplied with nine new rice recipes: Chicken Green Onion Fried Rice
being the overwhelming favorite! Regular USA Rice influencer and blogger programs hosted by TheFeedFeed and affiliated registered dietitians generated the new content to keep U.S.-grown rice top of mind for home cooks who are creating dishes using minimal ingredients and pantry staples.
In March and April, USA Rice distributed two new consumer newsletters packed with recipes, student activities, and other consumer resources including the online ThinkRice consumer recipe database. USA Rice also distributed a school nutrition newsletter in April to a network of school foodservice professionals offering support, inexpensive to-go recipes for schools, and directing readers back to USA Rice online foodservice offerings.
“In no way are we abandoning foodservice,” said Michael Klein USA Rice vice president of domestic promotion. “We are encouraging consumers to get take-out, curbside service, or purchase gift certificates from their favorite restaurants to help those businesses weather this storm. Foodservice is going to come roaring back, but we suspect things will look a little different. We’re working now to adapt our programs going forward to help restaurants stay profitable, keep customers and employees safe, and menu U.S.-grown rice.”
“Nobody is certain what the future holds for any of us, but whether it’s fine dining, quick casual, take-out, or a home cooked meal, U.S. rice can and should be a part of it, and we’re going to do our best to make that happen,” Trahan concluded.