Retorted rice in a microwave-friendly pouch is reaching national distribution.
Simmering a pot of rice may be a dying art, judging by convenience-driven rollouts of ready-to-heat precooked rice products. Los Angeles-based Multifoods USA's Uncle Ben's Ready Rice started shipping in December, with national distribution expected later this year.

Ready Rice follows last year's introduction of Fall River Wild Rice, a precooked, shelf-stable product in a pouch and winner of the Diamond Award, the highest accolade in the annual DuPont Awards honoring innovations in plastic packaging (see "Microwave packaging comes of age," Food Engineering, September 2003). With supplier CLP Industries Ltd., Fall River developed a four-ply laminate that substitutes glass-coated PET that stands up to retort temperatures to replace foil and makes the pouch microwave-friendly.

The products are part of the continuing trend toward more convenient foods. Fall River was developed because consumers cited difficulty in preparation as the number one barrier to purchasing wild rice. The same need is driving new products at Uncle Ben's, a Masterfoods USA spokeswoman says, beginning with frozen rice bowls in 1999 and a flavor-infused product that was relaunched in the fall. "The objective is to make it ultra-convenient," she says. "The easier we can make rice for people, the better."

For more information:
John Pahl
CLP Packaging Solutions Inc.