- A rice lobby group might ask the U.S. government to review its definition of rice in order to quell the growing popularity of cauliflower rice, according to Business Insider. “Only rice is rice, and calling ‘riced vegetables,’ ‘rice,’ is misleading and confusing to consumers,” Betsy Ward, president of USA Rice said in a statement.
- Cauliflower rice, which is made by pulsing the vegetable in a food processor, absorbs sauces, juices and spices just like traditional rice. It's not as versatile as its namesake, however — without seasoning, the veggie-based rice is bland and wet.
- There are approximately two grams of net carbohydrates in a cup of cauliflower, while white rice and brown rice contain 51 and 42 grams, respectively.
It seems the same definition wars that are curdling the milk industry have descended on the rice segment. Cauliflower may not be a consumer favorite — the ingredient has been predicted to be "the next big thing" for years — but shoppers are interested in guilt-free food alternatives that will enrich their diets. This is bad news for the rice industry, which has gained a bad rap over the years for its carbohydrate-rich grain.
Veggie substitutes are grabbing market share from traditional products, especially in the pasta space. Del Monte recently launched ready-to-cook strips of bell pepper, zuchinni and squash that consumers can cook like noodles after the popularity of items such as the Vegetti encouraged consumers to cook vegetable alternatives in pasta form at home. Cauliflower rice may be the next vegetable substitute threat, as more food manufacturers and restaurants incorporate the option in their dishes.
Based on the dairy industry's failing struggle to exclude soy, nut and plant-based dairy drinks from the definition of "milk", however, it's likely the rice industry won't see traction on the issue for a while if they bring their concerns to the FDA. Food industry players are mixed over whether the Trump administration will speed up or slow down the scheduled definitions of terms like "milk" and "healthy."
Still, there are other ways the rice community can undermine the popularity of cauliflower alternatives. Plant-based milk manufacturer Ripple recently launched a retro 8-bit game that teaches consumers about the nutritional benefits of pea-based milk compared to traditional dairy milk. The rice community could flip this script, and find engaging ways to educate consumers about the benefits of traditional rice — whether through in-store signage in groceries, product packaging labels or even multimedia campaigns.
It's uncertain if cauliflower rice will take a significant slice of market share away from traditional rice, as has happened with alternative milks. Only time will tell if the trend has staying power, but rice manufacturers should be prepared for a new competitor.