Communicating the SRI Message to Consumers
Lotus started by selling SRI rice in
bulk food sections while they began
the intense process of a brand refresh
to incorporate the new SRI rices into
their existing brand. They realized
that without packaging, communicating the story of SRI to consumers was
going to be very challenging, if not
Even with packaging though, explaining a scientific term like System
of Rice Intensification was not going
to be an easy task. “There is no simple elevator pitch,” says Lee. “Trying
to teach consumers a complex
acronym wasn’t going to work. We
needed a simple way we could get
across the message. Something that
could communicate the real benefits
of this project on the back of a package,” says Lee.
To figure out the best approach,
Lee and Levine worked with a team
of experts throughout 2010, which included industry analyst Andrew Aussie
and the marketing firm BBMG. BBMG put the idea of SRI out to
“The Collective,” a focus group made up of 800-1200 conscious
consumers. Their survey found that the issue of water scarcity was
consumers’ top environmental concern. With this research in
hand, they worked with designers at Bulldog Drummond to de-
velop a visual to simply and more succinctly tell the message. The
result is Lotus’ new “More Crop Per Drop” icon, set to make its
debut on Lotus’ new packaging this spring.
In addition to retail sales, Lotus’ rice is also served in universities and many restaurants, presenting more opportunities to educate the public. The company is also developing relationships
with manufacturers to have SRI rice included in retail products
such as crackers and cereals, creating a way for other companies
to help tell the SRI story on their boxes as well.
munity-based NGOs that are doing SRI
training with Cornell University’s
worldwide SRI network and Lotus’ experience in the marketplace. The result is an increase in food security,
more sustainable local economies and
greater self-sufficiency with less dependence on funding and inputs from
The next step is finding more funding. While major donors like the Gates
Foundation are giving millions to help
fund genetic research in an effort to
feed the world, SRI—which can have
farmers growing and eating more rice
in just one or two seasons rather than
in years, has no environmental risks
and is affordable to the poorest farmers—is sorely unfunded.
More farmers also need to learn
about SRI. While there are as many as 2
million farmers practicing SRI methods, out of 700 million rice farmers
worldwide, this is still a small number.
While SRI has been proven, many
farmers are reluctant to take a risk to
try something new, especially when rice
is everything to them—their food, their
livelihood. To help lessen the fear surrounding making a big change like
SRI, NGOs have developed test plots
where farmers can see the progress of
SRI first hand. Lee said that this combined with the promise of higher premiums is usually enough to convince
them to try out the new practices.
Lotus’ new icon helps convey the benefits of
Ken Lee and Caryl Levine, founders of Lotus Foods, with their
new SRI packaging.
readiness to export, checking roads and ports, mills and production capacity.
In 2009, the first container ( 18 metric tons) of SRI-grown rice from Madagascar
was imported into America, followed by one container each from Cambodia
and Indonesia. With organic and fair trade certifications, as well as the SRI premium, farmers earn 30-40 percent more. Currently, Lotus has four SRI rice
products and is working with about 2500 farm households. It hopes to convert
all of its rice suppliers to SRI methodology in the future.
Changing the World Together
“Neither CIIFAD, Lotus Foods or the farmer organizations could bring this
together on their own,” says Vent. “This public-private collaboration links com-