Lotus Foods: Small Company – Big Vision
I met Caryl Levine and Ken Lee, co-founders of Lotus Foods at Expo West last year. I was immediately impressed with the broad vision that drives their company. They are not just bringing some of the most exotic, unique tasting rice to the US market; they are also transforming the quality of life for the farmers they work with and teaching them to have a soft and sustainable impact on the environment. If you are looking for a way to enjoy delicious tasting exotic rice and make a strong statement that you care about how your food is grown, packaged, and distributed, you need look no further than Lotus Foods.
Really there are so many reasons we chose Lotus Foods as the featured company for our launch of www.OrganicFoodsReviews.com. Their products have been recipients of dozens of awards, and have been the subject of articles in some of the most prestigious magazines in the food world; Chef Magazine, Fine Cooking, Food and Wine, Gourmet, Natural Health Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Organic and Natural, Wine & Dine, Wine Spectator, and Williams-Sonoma Taste just to name a few. These are just a small sample of the articles that have been written attesting to the exquisite tastes of these exotic rice varieties. But you really know when a food is something special when the chefs start raving. Go to their site, www.lotusfoods.com, and see for yourself what they are saying!
If you are wondering what to do with these unusual rice varieties that you’ve probably never heard of let alone seen or tasted; don’t worry. Their site has dozens of excellent recipes that can be searched by rice product, or by type. Type means, for example, breakfast, entrée’s, desserts, salads, soups, and appetizers. There is only one caveat…and this is serious: Once you taste any of these ancient heirloom rice varieties, you won’t want to buy old Uncle Ben anymore! I’ll tell you what our favs are in just a moment. There’s more to the vision and the story.
Fifteen years ago, Caryl and Ken heard about a revolutionary system of cultivating rice called System of Rice Intensification (SRI). It was pioneered by Cornell University and has been adopted by all the rice farmers that Lotus Foods works with because it delivers the following benefits:
Uses less water (25-50%), seed (80-90%), no agrochemicals, on less land and it costs less!
Produces more rice (50-100%), nutrition, quality, biodiversity, sustainability, soil health, which translates into the farmer making a better income.
So here is the bottom line: When you buy Lotus Foods’ SRI-grown rice you are not only getting some of the best tasting and healthiest rice in the world, you are changing the world, one rice bowl at a time.
When you consider the fact that more than half of the world’s population makes rice their main staple food each and every day, you soon realize what an enormous impact this small company is having on the world!
Lotus Foods rice selection offers variety, taste, economy and nutritional value to your diet. Each rice varietal is distinguished by its terroir* and treasured for its distinctive cooking quality, taste, texture, aroma, color, and nutritional value. Many of the selections cook in as little as 20 minutes! All of the varieties are unique in color, taste, texture and aroma, with slightly more antioxidants present in the darker (purple/black) varieties.
While not all of their line are certified organic, many are and all are in some level of transition to organic. This is a long process that we know very well and we support their efforts.
Lotus Foods Background and Global Context
Established in 1995, Lotus Foods is a specialty rice company that has pioneered the introduction of exotic rice handcrafted on small family farms in remote areas of the world such as Bhutan, Bangladesh, and China, into the US market. Lotus Foods was founded with the intent and vision to support sustainable global agriculture by promoting production of traditional heirloom rice varieties, many of which may otherwise have become extinct, while enabling the small family rice farmer to earn an honorable living. Lotus Foods is the only US-based company with the unique vision and commitment to seek out small family rice farmers in developing countries and provide them a means of economic support through access to a global and sustainable marketplace economy.
Lotus Foods, has emerged as a leader in the specialty rice category, and perhaps most important to the principals, has made a big difference in the quality of life of its family farm suppliers. By purchasing Lotus Foods rice, consumers also get to contribute to improving the quality of life for small family rice farmers. Lotus Foods offers a rare collection of rice that is the high value alternative to commodity and other standard rice currently available from domestic growers and other importers.
Lotus Foods’ mission is important and it is seriously needed one as well. To better give you an idea of the importance of Lotus Foods’ work, we want to first give you some background about global rice production and consumption, as well as the crucial nutritional significance of rice for our growing world population.
Rice – The Main Meal
Rice is truly an amazing grain. There are thousands of varieties of rice (maybe as many as 40,000 or more) grown on every continent on earth, except Antarctica. And that is no small wonder when you consider that rice is a staple food for close to half of the earth’s population.
About three billion people on our planet depend on rice for their survival. About 90% of the world crop is entirely eaten in Asia, where 416,459,000 tons are consumed annually. The United States consumes 2,704,00 tons annually. Statistics from The International Rice Research Institute.
With this level of demand, rice is the second largest produced cereal in the world. More than 550 million tons of rice are produced annually around the globe. Asia is the biggest rice producer, accounting for 90% of the world’s production and consumption of rice. The majority of all rice produced comes from India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Bangladesh. China and India, which account for more than one-third of global population supply over half of the world’s rice. Brazil is the most important non-Asian producer, followed by the United States. Italy ranks first in Europe.
Because rice is a main staple food, it is crucial in providing key nutrition to nearly 3 billion people, many of whom are very poor. Rice is high in complex carbohydrates. It is cholesterol free, is low in sodium and it nearly fat-free. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals including thiamine, niacin, iron, riboflavin, vitamin D, calcium, and fiber. It is a supplementary source of protein because it contains all eight amino acids. It is low in the amino acid lysine, which is found in beans making the classic combination of rice and beans a particularly healthful dish. Rice is gluten free and easily digestible making it a good choice for infants and people with wheat allergies or digestive problems.
Brown rice is rice with the hull removed and with the bran layers left clinging to the grains. Its flavor is nutty and it has a slightly chewy texture. Compared to white rice, which has the bran layers removed from the hull, brown rice has twice as much fiber, five times the vitamin E, and three times the magnesium. Brown rice, a healthy 100 percent whole grain food, gained its rightful place in the whole grains universe in May 2008, when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed to allow it to bear the whole grain health claim. Brown rice has been certified as heart healthy, is a WIC approved food and is approved for many diets, such as low glycemic and gluten free.
Lotus Foods – Helping to Meet a Global Challenge
As a planet, we face a steep challenge to keep up with rice demand, provide optimum nutrition, and to do this while protecting our natural resources. We must find ways to grow more rice on less land, using less water, less labor, and fewer chemical inputs. As a part of this effort, Lotus Foods is a committed to supporting sustainable global agriculture and providing a global market for traditional highly nutritious heirloom varieties of rice.
Lotus Foods is fully committed to working with farmers to grow rice using a special method called The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which is at the forefront of a grassroots rice revolution, and is an ecologically sound method of rice production. This method helps resource-limited farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America to improve their yields, health, livelihoods and environment while producing better quality and more nutritious rice.
SRI is a set of concepts and practices that change the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients used in growing rice. Normally, farmers transplant seedlings 3 to 6 weeks old, randomly and closely-spaced into flooded fields. With SRI, farmers take tiny seedlings, less than 2 weeks old, and plant them into unflooded fields at wide spacing and then use simple tools to remove weeds that aerate the soil. Plants are not kept submerged in water. Fields are periodically irrigated and then dried out. Organic fertilizers replace chemical fertilizers and make pesticides unnecessary. By using less water, seed, and land, SRI benefits small family farmers by producing higher yields of premium quality and more nutritious rice.
These alternative methods have dramatic impacts: Farmers can increase yields from their traditional varieties by 50-100%, using 25-50% less water and 80-90% less seed, with less drudgery, and with few or no purchased agrichemical inputs. Nearly half of the world’s population depends upon rice for their subsistence and livelihoods, and rice production has to increase by 30-40% percent over the next 25 years. With diminishing land and water, SRI represents a significant innovation to meet these needs.
Global Benefits of Lotus Foods products
Lotus foods rice products are not found anywhere else in the western market. They provide optimal variety to your diet, and each rice has its own unique taste. Read our reviews of Lotus Foods Organic Rice products in upcoming posts. Their rice products are a convenient staple food for your family with many of them cooking up in only 20 minutes. When you buy SRI-grown rice you are not only getting some of the best tasting and healthiest rice in the world, you are also helping to:
“ Improve local and global food security
“ Promote healthier people and a healthier environment
“ Empower small farmers and raise incomes
“ Alleviate poverty
“ Reduce water demands, leaving more water for human use and natural ecosystems
“ Address climate change challenges
“ Reduce pressure on fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitats
We think this is a huge value for your money and why we have honored Lotus Foods as the first company featured here at OrganicFoodsReviews.com.