Lotus Foods left Natural Products Expo East 2016 with a NEXTY award for best new organic food for its Organic Red Rice. Here, cofounder and co-CEO Caryl Levine talks about what the award has meant for Lotus, where the company is headed and how it keeps one of its founding principles alive—to share and preserve the cultural roots its products are built on.
How does the Organic Red Rice stand out from your other products and from other rice varieties on the market?
Caryl Levine: Our Organic Red Rice is a standout in a number of ways. Like all of our products, we chose it because of a combination of flavor, nutrition, ease of cooking and cultural heritage. In particular, red rice has a rich and nutty flavor and is an excellent source of micronutrients.
More importantly, this rice is grown using More Crop Per Drop farming practices. This growing practice was actually developed in Madagascar as a technique to improve rice yields and farmer profits with less seed, less water, reduced methane emissions and lower workloads for women. It’s a key part of our company mission to create markets for More Crop Per Drop rice, so it’s especially rewarding to have introduced a rice from the country where this amazing growing technique was created.
Can you talk about the cultural roots of the product, and more generally how sharing the cultural roots of foods fits into Lotus Foods’ identity as a brand?
CL: A big focus for us is to preserve rice biodiversity. Although most Americans have heard of basmati or jasmine rice, there are many thousands of distinct rice varieties around the world that play important roles in local culture, health and cuisine; many even have medicinal properties. Unfortunately, since the 1960s, rice biodiversity has been eroded by modern farming and seed breeding practices. We’re committed to demonstrating the value of these traditional rices and keeping them in production. Our Organic Red Rice is sourced from about 60 farm households in Madagascar, where red rice is a staple of the national diet.
What did the NEXTY mean for Lotus Foods? Did it open any doors with retailers, investors, etc.?
CL: Receiving recognition for the good work you do is always nice, and especially when it is such a prestigious award as Best New Organic Product. It’s hard to exactly calculate the impact receiving a NEXTY had on gaining distribution and sales, but any recognition is always helpful to demonstrate to buyers and consumers that a product is unique or special.
What’s next for Lotus Foods? Do you have new products coming out?
CL: It’s been a busy year for us! We just launched 10 new items: Organic Rice Delights, Organic Pad Thai Rice Noodles, and new 30 ounce-sized heirloom rice packs (previously our retail rice had been available only in 15-ounce sizes). We’re especially excited about our 30-ounce Dehraduni Basmati Rice. Everyone is familiar with basmati, but it’s the amazing flavor and aroma of the Dehraduni basmati varietal that initially created broad recognition for basmati. Today, most of the basmati [varieties] in stores are hybrids with much less flavor or aroma, so it’s a real treat for consumers to have access to a product that captures the original flavor of this beautiful rice. In addition, we’re delighted to support farmers in keeping this ancient variety of rice alive.
We’re also busy with lots of other innovative products in the works. Be sure to come by our booth at Expo East to see what they are.