The USA Rice Federation's September National Rice Month retail promotion program caused a 6 percent increase in U.S. rice sales from August to September, according to A.C. Nielsen data. Nearly 7,500 displays of rice and rice products in more than 600 participating stores increased consumer awareness and consumption of rice.

H.E. Butt Grocery Company of San Antonio, Texas, and Village Market IGA in Harrogate, Tenn., each earned top honors in their respective categories in the USA Rice Federation's 12th Annual National Rice Month Display Contest.

H-E-B, the grand-prize winner in the chain retail category, was singled out for promotional efforts in 278 stores. H-E-B's promotions included a chain-wide program of retail displays and newspaper advertising; a full-page color ad featuring National Rice Month in the company's monthly circular, which reaches 6.5 million consumers; 17 advertisements featuring rice products, garnering 110.5 million consumer impressions; and 2,120 rice displays in stores during September.

In a letter to USA Rice, H-E-B category manager Jody Hall wrote, “H-E-B made a significant investment in focus and promotional resources to support National Rice Month. We appreciate the support of our manufacturers and the USA Rice Federation, and look forward to continued sales growth in the rice category.”

H-E-B is one of the nation's largest retailers, with 304 stores and an estimated $9.8 billion in annual sales.

In the independent retailer category, Village Market IGA was awarded the national grand prize. A 30-foot display in the front of the store featured 95 different rice items and 112 cases of rice products.

Village Market's rice promotion resulted in a 60 percent lift in sales over August sales for the store, and a 50 percent increase in rice sales in September 2002 vs. September 2001.

Winning stores and 10 runner-ups in each category were awarded cash prizes.

USA Rice Federation is the national advocate for all segments of the rice industry, conducting activities to influence government programs, developing and initiating programs to increase worldwide demand, and providing other services to increase industry profitability.