Keith Belling, founder of RightRice, says the high-level goal for the brand has always been to reimagine the rice aisle and bring to market nutritious plant-based main meal solutions that deliver on taste and convenience for consumers.
“As we’ve come to really understand the versatility of our product and consumer needs, we’ve seen the opportunity to look beyond rice as a favorite side dish and move towards this plant-based meal solution notion,” Belling told FoodNavigator-USA.
Highlighted in Whole Foods Top 10 Trends for 2021, RightRice Risotto is part of a growing movement of reimagining staple ingredients and providing consumers with a convenient and nutritious way to prepare a full meal.
Despite stories of consumers expanding their culinary skill set amid the pandemic and more time spent at home learning new cooking techniques, market research from the Hartman Group found that consumers continue to be stretched thin and are putting increased value on 'modern convenience' (i.e. food solutions that are "empowering, engaging, and flexible").
According to the Hartman Group, as cooking has increased, so has the desire for culinary assistance, which consumers say is important on 24% of occasions (+3% from 2019).
12-minute meal solution
One of the crucial steps to preparing a classic risotto is the tedious process of continually stirring the rice and broth until all the liquid is absorbed, taking on average 20 to 25 minutes.
The process to prepare RightRice Risotto is just 12 minutes start to finish, said Belling, and can be done all in one pot.
The final product has the same creamy texture profile as a traditional risotto and comes in four flavors: basil pesto, creamy parmesan, wild mushroom, and cracked pepper (a nod to the Italian classic pasta dish, caccio e pepe).
One serving of RightRice Risotto (which is made of a 90% vegetable blend from lentils, chickpea, and pea, and 10% rice) contains 180 calories, 10g of protein, 4g of fiber, and 40% less net carbs than a comparable portion of white rice.
Since launching nationally with Whole Foods and on Amazon in early 2018, RightRice Risotto will be the brand’s third national launch with Whole Foods, following the launch of RightRice Medley products in 2019.
In 2020, the brand generated approximately $7.5m growing at a rate of 2.5x compared to 2019. Belling expects that the brand will grow an additional 50% to 70% in sales in 2021 and grow its store footprint from roughly 7,000 to 9,000-10,000 retails doors this year.
“We think this will be a business that does $50m in five years,” he said.
While its partnership and third national launch with Whole Foods has been a huge boon for the business, Belling said that he thinks of RightRice as an omnichannel brand and that the company is currently building out its branded food service, meal prep, and culinary chef partnerships.
RightRice is on the menu at fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant chain CAVA’s 100+ locations where it’s featured as a base alongside white saffron rice and brown-basmati rice to build a grain bowl.
“Everybody in foodservice is really stretching to launch more plant-based items to their menus,” noted Belling, adding that there’s healthy demand for other plant-based options outside of meat alternatives.
RightRice has also struck branded partnerships with DTC meal and grocery delivery companies, Purple Carrot, Thistle, Hungry Root, and Territory Foods, where it can take advantage of another branded way to reach consumers.
“It’s a branded experience you’re getting with RightRice in an era when you can’t demo in stores,” said Belling.
As part of its omnichannel push, Belling added that the company is looking to level up its DTC business spending a lot of time and effort to Shopify its website and working to highlight key product messaging that would motivate consumers to purchase RightRice products.
'We have some really exciting innovation in the works'
The core goal for RightRice is to become a household brand by providing consumers with multiple ways to enjoy the product multiple times a week, said Belling, who believes its risotto offering is a great entry point for consumers new to the brand.
"It’s all about the product. We’re really focused on making sure we have the best veggie rice product on the market and expanding the usage occasions, so consumers can enjoy more varieties of our products multiple times a week," he said.
And the RightRice portfolio will continue to expand with offerings this year, added Belling.
“We have some really exciting innovation in the works around quick, plant-based meal solutions,” Belling said.