The growing popularity of a wide variety of international dishes is driving sales of rice as a versatile accompaniment

The rice and noodles market has in recent years worked hard to cater for the Asian and Afro-Caribbean population, as well as for other adventurous tastes, with most brands now offering ethnic-flavoured varieties of their standard products.
“Rice is a highly versatile product and is increasingly being used to accompany a wide range of international foods, not only Indian and Chinese but also Mexican, Thai and Spanish,” says Lee Tynan, new product development controller at The Authentic Food Company. “Many consumers choose rice as a substitute for potato products and it can also be the basis for many main courses such as risotto and biryani.”
The most recent addition to the company’s rice portfolio is Firecracker - a blend of white rice with flakes of chilli and spring onion. Launched under the Oriental brand, the newcomer is positioned as an accompaniment to a range of Chinese and Thai dishes.
Tony O’Connor, sales and marketing director at Veetee rice, also believes rice is accompanying dishes that a few years ago
would have been the preserve of potato products, thanks to the rise in more convenient concepts. “The growth in microwaveable rice has grown the total rice category and has not really affected volumes on ambient rice. Consumers are using these products on occasions where they would not normally use rice - such as for convenience cooking mid-week.”
The trend of consumers becoming more adventurous is showing no signs of stopping. “The British interest in all things international continues, from increased media coverage to a new generation of contemporary ethnic cuisine restaurants,” says Tilda Rizazz brand manager Laurie Chalmers. “These influences, coupled with broadening travel horizons, have increased the knowledge of consumers, who are now seeking more authentic ethnic food.”
Tilda’s Rizazz range covers a wide variety of cuisines to cater for many different tastes, with its rice recipes taking inspiration from Mediterranean, Mexican and Spanish dishes as well as the more traditional Indian-style foods.
On top of this, all the multiples have their own ranges of ethnic foods with microwaveable rice or noodles sold either as part of meal bags or separately, which has almost certainly helped drive consumption. Further, the multiples’ own-label versions of chilled sticky jasmine, egg fried and pilau rice, among others, are all doing well, says Alan Clark, trading manager at Musgrave Budgens Londis. “Sales of these rices are definitely growing as consumers travel more and as the ethnic mix in the UK changes,” he says.
Trade marketing controller for Blue Dragon, Tracy Hughes, believes the success of these own-label offerings is partly down to positioning in-store. “As the chilled ranges of rice are sited alongside chilled ready meals, people automatically buy rice when they buy a curry or Oriental main dish.”