National Rice Month Campaign Makes an Impact

Oct 25, 2017
Super sunset wins #ThinkRice photo contest
 2017 #ThinkRice-Photo-Contest-Winner, 5 combines in harvested rice field with gorgeous sunset in background
ARLINGTON, VA -- The many National Rice Month (NRM) activities that occurred this September to increase awareness and consumption of U.S.-grown rice focused on retail, foodservice, and consumer outreach.  U.S. rice got a boost from promotions with retail chains and their in-store dietitians, promotional partnerships with P.F. Chang’s and Advanced Fresh Concepts, and the latest farm and mill tour in California attended by 10 foodservice professionals.

USA Rice worked with registered dieticians (RD) at eight grocery store chains across the country:  Big Y, Coborn’s, Hy-Vee, Jewel-Osco, Martin’s, Pyramid Foods, Redner’s, and Weis. Through these partnerships NRM and U.S.-grown rice messaging reached 16 million shoppers via a variety of channels including print and online newsletters, blogs, store circulars, signage and displays, social media, in-store activities, and community events.  

For the third year in a row, USA Rice worked with P.F. Chang’s to promote NRM through their social media network of more than one million followers.  The restaurant chain offered a two-day promotion for a free bowl of fried rice with the purchase of two entrees at all 210 locations throughout September.  Advanced Fresh Concepts, the largest supermarket sushi distributor in the U.S., promoted NRM with U.S. rice signage at sushi counters and the addition of two new dishes featuring U.S.-grown rice.

During the last week of September, USA Rice invited food writers, RDs, chefs, collegiate and professional sports nutritionists, and representatives from Aramark out to Arbuckle, California for a farm and mill tour at Sun Valley Rice Company (see USA Rice Daily, October 6, 2017).  This was the second such tour – the first was last year at Windmill Rice Company in Jonesboro, Arkansas -- to give foodservice professionals a glimpse of the many facets of the U.S. rice industry.  Once they’ve seen firsthand how and where U.S. rice is grown and milled, they feel a real connection to our industry.  USA Rice becomes a resource for recipe and menu collaboration as well as marketing and promotions to tell the story of U.S. rice and encourage increased use of U.S. rice on menus and at home.

“These farm and mill tours are a great opportunity to have our U.S. rice messaging reach key decision makers,” said Paul Galvani, chairman of the USA Rice Domestic Promotion Committee.  “Whether it be chefs looking to incorporate rice on a menu more or foodservice providers including U.S. rice in their offerings, our message gets heard.”  

As always, September is a big social media month for USA Rice thanks to a NRM social media campaign that generated more than 1,494 likes, 270 shares/retweets, and 117 new followers. Posts for the NRM campaign included farmer features, cooking tips, recipe videos, nutritional information, and fun facts about U.S. rice.

“A year-over-year comparison of USA Rice’s NRM social media campaign shows trending in the right direction,” said Galvani.  “We saw 3 percent growth in Facebook followers, 15 percent growth for Twitter, and 44 percent growth for Instagram.”  

Often our most popular posts come from USA Rice members.  Facebook followers “liked” University of Arkansas researcher Jarrod Hardke’s suggestion to promote rice for breakfast using the slogan “Rice and Shine!”  Another fan favorite featured Todd Willis, a third and fourth grade teacher in Mississippi who was named the 2016 DeSoto County Teacher of the Year for his work on a school rice planting project that inspired the same project to take place at his former host school in Japan.

Michael Bosworth, a California grower and member of the 2015-2017 Rice Leadership Development Class, regularly posts engaging images and short videos of his rice farming operation on social media to directly communicate with consumers.  His posts help tell the story of U.S. rice from farm to table, and educate the public about how their food is grown and the sustainable practices Bosworth and other U.S. rice farmers employ to produce a top quality crop.

For his efforts, Bosworth was chosen as the grand prize winner, for the second year in a row, of USA Rice’s photo contest featuring the hashtag #ThinkRice.  For winning the contest, Bosworth received a complimentary registration to the 2017 USA Rice Outlook Conference held December 10-11 in San Antonio, Texas.

“We have an incredible opportunity to engage and educate our customers and the general public about how we grow rice and the positive impact we make as an industry on the environment and local economy,” said Bosworth.  “Ducks, swans, geese, herons, wild pheasants, turkeys come here to rest and feast, and I never tire of sharing the conservation practices on rice farms that create a habitat supporting all manner of wildlife.”