America’s relationship with rice has never heated up to the extent it has in Japan, where nearly four in ten households cook rice at least once a day.
America’s relationship with rice has never heated up to the extent it has in Japan, where nearly four in ten households cook rice at least once a day. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for about 90% of the worldwide market for rice cookers, estimated to exceed $1 billion a year, according to IMS Research (UK).
Perhaps it is our penchant for speed and convenience in preparing meals – it could take close to an hour to properly cook rice, either white grains or the nutritionally superior brown rice. (The darker variety still has its germ, bran and endosperm intact, is high in fiber, and has been linked to less risk for Type 2 diabetes, asthma and other ailments.)
Also, Americans simply seem to prefer French fries, or on the healthier side, green vegetables or other potato products instead of rice.
This scene may be changing fast, however, F3 thinks because of the recession. True, rice cookers still aren’t a staple in the American kitchen. Patience isn’t a virtue when families are hungry, so rice isn’t a frequent choice: rice mixes, one of the most popular category segments, penetrated just 53.1% of U.S. households in the 52 weeks ended December 26, 2009, according to Nielsen Homescan Consumer Facts. Other rice segments penetrated 40% or far fewer households than that. All data are for prepackaged, UPC-coded products only.
But rice sales jumped so impressively (in the high double-digit range) a year ago that people were either celebrating at countless weddings or they were economizing on their meals at home. Coming off such a banner year, the growth pace moderated in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) in the 52 weeks ended January 23, 2010, but still kept merchants happy in the largest segments, reported Nielsen.
Dollar sales of packaged and bulk rice, for example, jumped 35.6% a year ago and 5.5% in the latest 52 weeks to $717.8 million, the Nielsen figures showed. The branded portion of this segment grew by 4.3% in the latest 52 weeks to $520.3 million, while the private label portion grew by 9.0% to $197.4 million. This continued a decline in the branded share to 72.5% in dollars and 64.4% in equivalized volume (16 ounce basis).
Dollar sales of rice mixes, the second-largest segment, rose at a more consistent 8.1% a year ago and 5.9% in the latest 52 weeks to $680.5 million, according to Nielsen data. The branded portion of this segment grew by 6.1% in the latest 52 weeks to $641.4 million, while the private label portion grew just 2.5% to $39.1 million.
Instant rice, which most effectively meets our need for speed in meal prep, is the third-largest segment. Its dollar sales grew by 16.6% a year ago and by 2.7% in the latest 52 weeks to $264.3 million, stated Nielsen. The branded portion of this segment eked out a 0.4% bump in the latest 52 weeks to $195.3 million, while the private label portion jumped by 9.8% to $69.0 million. This too sustained a drop in the branded share to 73.9% in dollars and 68.3% in EUV.
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