Following high-profile promotional successes with fast food chains like Taco Bell and Popeyes, the USA Rice Federation's Domestic Promotion Committee has decided to continue efforts that focus on consumer promotions, processed foods and the rapidly-expanding foodservice sector to boost domestic sales.

“What's most important to the industry is sales,” said USA Rice Federation Chairman Gary Sebree, a rice producer from Stuttgart, Ark. “That's why we target our efforts accordingly. Increasing domestic consumption of U.S.-grown rice is a core goal of the Federation, and we have award-winning programs that have been very effective in helping us reach that goal.”

Charles Trahan, a rice miller from Crowley, La., and chairman of the Domestic Promotion Committee, agreed.

“I think we have a responsibility to the rice producers and millers in this country to maximize the impact of checkoff dollars and dues, especially in tough times like these,” Trahan said. “When we get together, we take a hard look at our programs to see what works.

“It's a process we go through continually.”

Sebree said the Federation's promotions target key audiences nationwide.

“About half of the money spent on food in this country is on food prepared away from home,” Sebree said. “We're working hard to make sure rice sales grow with that trend.”

Trahan said a growing ethnic population in the United States has fueled an increase in rice imports. However, he sees that development as an opportunity.

“We've seen an increase in rice imports by the U.S. to serve a growing ethnic population with aromatic varieties,” Trahan said. “This is a great opportunity for our industry, because some of our traditional non-ethnic customers are showing interest in these varieties as well.

“Because our producers are capable of growing many different varieties of rice so well, we'll be in a position to boost sales in this market niche.”

A USDA report shows domestic sales of U.S. rice increased again last year.

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.