U.S. Rice Varieties Surveyed by Consumers in China

    The latest marketing surveys of U.S. rice by USRPA have concluded in China with very successful results. As mentioned in previous issues of the Rice Advocate surveys were conducted in October and November in second tier cities in Northeast China, a predominately medium grain consuming region of the country.

    The surveys were NOT a head to head comparison of the different brands or varieties of rice. Each brand (which was also a different variety of rice) was surveyed on its own one at a time so as not to influence consumers to respond one way or the other.

    Consumers in upscale Aeon and China Vanguard supermarkets in Tianjin, Qingdao, and Shenyang were asked a total of eight questions, focusing on their opinions of taste and quality. A rating scale (1-5, 5 being the best) method was used to quantify their reactions to the rice.

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    These surveys confirmed that the Chinese consumer divides rice into (only) two categories. Rice is either “Northeast rice” (meaning medium and short grain grown in that region, or “Southern rice” (long grain grown in the traditional rice growing areas in central and southern China). In this test cycle, when the surveyors tried to differentiate medium from short grain, they were not well understood.

    A total of 5 brands representing 5 varieties were tested during this activity. Medium grain and short grain from California were accompanied by two medium grain varieties from the South, as well as a premium long grain. This week we will briefly describe the results from the southern Indica varieties.

    Two southern medium grain brands were sampled. “Martin” brand from Martin Rice Mill contained MM14 medium grain developed by the Missouri Rice Research Farm. “Arroz Grano” brand from Windmill Rice contained Jupiter medium grain, the most widely planted medium grain variety in Arkansas. The ratings are based on 492 and 378 consumer surveys, respectively.

    Asked to rate perceived quality, the MM14 garnered 340 fours and fives, or 69% top ratings. For taste, the ratings were 309 fours and fives, for a 63% strong opinion.

    The one long grain variety tested was “Adolphus” brand from American Rice, Inc., which contained Presidio, the premium long grain variety grown in Texas. This rice was only sampled in one store on one day by a total of 109 consumers, who gave it 66% on the quality scale, and 61% for taste, despite this class of rice being foreign to most of the participants.

    As we await the formal signing of the phytosanitary protocol that will allow U.S. rice to be sold to China, we remain more convinced than ever that Chinese consumers will buy U.S. rice as soon as they are able to. We will cover the California rice varieties in our next issue.

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