For the past 19 years, the USA Rice Federation has been spotlighting the U.S. rice industry through National Rice Month retail promotions, contributing to increased awareness and sales of U.S. rice in grocery stores.

Since the program’s inception in 1991, our in-store marketing efforts have created literally billions of opportunities for consumer exposure to U.S. rice.

Strong participation from retailers and rice product manufacturers in September 2008 led to solid results. Total rice sales in pounds increased 8 percent from August to September, and promotions generated traffic, profit and excitement for retailers across the United States. Nearly 4,000 U.S. rice displays were set up in 29 states, and participating retailers saw average rice sales increases of 76 percent!

One retailer, Weis Markets in Sunbury, Penn., educated consumers about the healthy benefits of brown rice, as well as the Food and Drug Administration’s whole-grain health claim that diets rich in whole-grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Weis used in-store radio ads, newsletters and ad circulars and even appeared on the local NBC and CBS affiliates to talk about whole-grain brown rice nutrition and the ease of preparing rice.

“This was our first year participating in National Rice Month,” said Karen Buch, director of lifestyle initiatives for Weis Markets. “We wanted to maximize National Rice Month messaging within our 155 stores. In the end, it was the combination of messaging tools that made this promotion a success and allowed us to more than triple our brown rice sales.”

Weis was named the USA Rice Chain Retailer of the Year for its innovative promotion efforts and support of the U.S. rice industry.

This September, millions of Americans will be exposed to rice messaging in grocery stores throughout the United States that will feature in-store promotions and newspaper and magazine advertisements. The promotions will encourage consumers to purchase U.S. rice and highlight how rice is ideal for stretching food dollars. Consumers will see U.S. rice promoted not only in the rice aisle, but also in the deli, the frozen food aisles, and the produce and meat departments.

USA Rice Federation will reach even more consumers this year through exciting September National Rice Month retail promotion activities, including:

• A store promotion contest in which chain and independent retailers compete to win cash prizes by creating in-store displays promoting U.S. rice. Stores participate in this contest for a lot more than just prizes—rice sales increases as high as 450 percent have been reported.

• The “Rice to the Rescue Sweepstakes,” a new event for 2009, designed to get consumers excited about rice and teach them how rice can help stretch their food budgets. Consumers can submit tips on www.usarice.com/ricetotherescue, demonstrating how they use rice to rescue their food budgets. Their tips will be featured on the USA Rice Web site, www.usarice.com, and the most creative submissions will win free groceries or an Aroma rice cooker.

• The “Rice-A-Thon” incentive program is USA Rice’s most effective means of generating in-store displays. Thousands of U.S. rice displays are set up in grocery stores each year through this program, which provides incentives for rice manufacturer sales representatives to set them up using USA Rice point-of-sale materials with tear-off pads featuring healthy rice bowls and rice pudding recipes.

• The USA Rice “Retailer of the Year” awards recognize one independent and one chain retailer each year to encourage continued promotion of U.S.-grown rice and build relationships with key retailers in heavy rice-consumption areas.

• The USA Rice Awareness Program has aggressive publicity, direct mail and advertising components that reach key decision-makers to bolster the program’s success

USA Rice also partners with large chains, ethnic retailers and warehouse clubs to develop customized National Rice Month promotions. These broad-reaching programs reach millions of consumers through newspaper ad circulars, in-store magazines, U.S. rice displays, coupons, price reductions and rice sampling. This is a win-win program for U.S. rice mills and retailers, with one retail chain reporting an increase of $1 million in rice sales resulting from its NRM promotion efforts in September.

In addition to retail promotions, National Rice Month celebrations will take place in rice-growing communities through proclamation signings, 5K runs, rice tasting luncheons and a scholarship program.

For more information about the National Rice Month retail program go to www.usarice.com/retail.