Crowley, LA (KPEL News) - When someone in south Louisiana's Cajun Country says, "cook some rice," they mean the authentic grain. Offering them a vegetable you call rice would be nearly as offensive as putting tomatoes in gumbo.

Louisiana rice millers want to make sure no one is mislead by products marketed to be something they aren't.

Louisiana rice producers and the entire industry took the gloves off in the fight against what they call "rice pretenders," and they won with a knock-out. We've all seen what vegetable companies are selling as alternatives to rice in the form of things like cauliflower and broccoli, an insinuation that rice is not as healthy for you as its veggie counterparts.

Facebook via USA Rice

We've seen similar arguments for products marketed as milk substitutes, like soy milk or almond milk. Companies created these options for rice and target-marketed it to people who wanted to cut back on carbohydrates.

Rice producers said a label doesn't make it rice and decided to make some noise to stop companies from doing so.

The battle began in 2017. Betsy Ward, president of industry lobby USA Rice, released a statement that said, in part:

Only rice is rice, and calling ‘riced vegetables’ ‘rice,’ is misleading and confusing to consumers.

The state of Arkansas, another rice producing state, took steps in 2019 with the Truth in Labeling bill that imposes penalties for misrepresenting a product and misleading consumers. A violation could cost companies $1,000.

Since then, most vegetable companies who offer the granular version of their product have stopped labeling their products with the word "rice" used as a noun and revised the terminology on packaging to reflect "rice" as a verb. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "to finely chop or process (a food) so that it resembles rice." That's why you see the label read "riced cauliflower" on your favorite brands.

Riced vegetables

Robbie Trahan, an owner of Falcon Rice Mill in Crowley and chair of the USA Rice's Domestic Promotion Committee explained:

We’ve said from the beginning, ‘rice is a grain, not a shape. If someone wants to eat cauliflower crumbles, that’s fine. But don’t call it ‘rice.’ It isn’t.

The forced shift from noun to verb was the first hit in a one-two punch knock-out.

One company, Planting Hope Brands, continues to market itself as RightRice. USA Rice got back in the ring.

not rice

While companies like Bird's Eye and Green Giant altered the labels of their products generally found in the freezers at grocery stores, retailer haven't moved the "pretender products" out of the rice aisles and into the produce sections. So products like RightRice sit in the same section as actual rice brands.

Michael Klein, vice president of domestic promotion for USA Rice, expressed appreciation for companies that changed their packaging, but said:

As for the retailers, we understand that they were likely under contract to display the pretenders next to our real rice. We just wish the pretenders didn’t try to confuse consumers into believing that they are making a choice among real rice products.

Soon, customers won't confuse the two because the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has canceled the trademark registration, saying "RightRice" is deceptively misdescriptive and deceptive. Planting Hope Brands must now change the packaging and marketing to reflect the cancelation.

In its announcement about the trademark revocation, Trahan, whose family has been milling rice in Crowley for more than 85 years, said:

To be clear, we believe there is room in the shopping cart for both products, but consumers should be able to make well-informed, deliberate purchases and not be tricked into buying something they did not intend. The federal system of trademark registration should not be used to bolster the trademark rights of those who mislead consumers with their marks.

These Five Tips Will Help You Save Money On Food

I've been browsing the r/frugal subreddit and compiled a few of the best ways to save money where you can.

Gallery Credit: Tommy McNeill

You Should Never Put These Foods in the Refrigerator