Specialty Food Magazine

JAN-FEB 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 121 of 159

BRAND SPOTLIGHT BRAND TIME LINE 1995 Launches business with Forbidden Rice, Bhutanese Red Rice and Organic Jasmine Rice; begins selling wholesale foodservice and retail. Later that year, introduces Organic Brown Jasmine Rice 1998 Wins first of nine NASFT sofiTM Awards: Silver Finalist for Outstanding New Product with Forbidden Rice 2000 Introduces Forbidden Rice Flour 2002 Introduces Carnaroli Rice 2005 Establishes strategic partnership with Cornell University to create global distribution in conjunction with SRI farming program 2006 Introduces Brown Kalijira Rice 2007 Introduced Organic Forbidden Rice, Organic Jade Pearl Rice and Stainless Steel Rice Cooker; Ken Lee participates in the Poverty Alleviation track panel at the Clinton Global Initiative, and Lotus Food makes a CGI Commitment 2009 Introduces Madagascar Pink Rice in bulk; receives Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) Environment and Sustainability Award; Ken Lee participates in Global Philanthropy Forum panel: From Subsistence Farming to Commercial Agriculture; social-media outreach begins 2010 Initiates brand refresh; introduces bulk packaging of Organic Volcano Rice and Organic Brown Mekong Flower Rice; wins Union for Ethical BioTrade Biodiversity Award for Honorable Mention in the Leadership Category (shared with Marks & Spencer); Ken participates again at CGI Plenary Session, giving an update on LF CGI Commitment, and is introduced by former president Bill Clinton 2011 Trademarks More Crop Per Drop program; introduces retail bags of Organic Volcano, Organic Madagascar Pink Rice and Organic Mekong Flower Rice, Organic Brown Mekong Flower Rice and Organic Carnaroli Rice; receives Innovation Against Poverty Grant from Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, to scale up programs; Dr. Oz calls Forbidden Rice his "secret weapon" on Good Morning America; wins the Union for Ethical BioTrade Leadership Award The company name went through a few iterations but was officially established in 1995 as Lotus Foods, pulling from Lee's Buddhist practices. Buddhism emphasizes that the lotus grows from a muddy swamp to become a beautiful flower. "We live the name every day," Levine says. "Our vision from early on was to support not only sustainable agriculture but also to sustain the biodiversity of rice while providing the small rice family farmer an honorable living." To that end, Lotus Foods has paid its farmers 30 to 40 percent above farm gate prices since the inception of the business, and sought fair-trade practices long before the label had the familiarity among consumers that it does today. Sourcing a Product Line When they returned from the trip, Levine and Lee focused on set- ting up the supply chain for black rice. "It took two years to find our first black-rice growers in China," says Levine, joking that it became forbidden to them as well. Finding the two other rices that, with the black rice, would eventually launch their business was much easier. 120 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE ❘ specialtyfood.com The first, Bhutanese Red Rice, came serendipitously in 1993 while Levine was working on a development project at the University of California at Berkeley. The chair of her committee held a recep- tion catered by his son, Christian Leatsch, who had spent time in Bhutan. "I went into the kitchen to introduce myself to him and asked if he catered full time and he said no—he was trying to bring in this Bhutanese red rice into the country." The timing was uncan- ny, so Leatsch partnered with Lotus Foods for the next few years as the brand took off. "It was a real gift," Levine says. In that same year, Lotus Foods found the third rice in the line, Lowell Farms Organic Jasmine Rice, while attending a U.S. Rice Federation Conference. It was there that Levine and Lee met Lowell and Linda Rauns, first-generation rice growers of Lowell Farms in Texas who were just starting to cultivate and try to market the first organic jasmine rice in the country. "Once we tasted it and heard their story, we loved the idea of having domestic rice, as well as imported," Levine notes. Later in 1995, they added Organic Brown Jasmine Rice to the line.

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