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Small Time Dramas… 17, December 2006

Posted by babychaos in General Wittering, Life and living, Light Fluff.
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Another small drama took place this week when I went to my local supermarket. My goal was to buy some Italian easy cook brown rice. A simple enough mission, you would think but I had not bought any in a long time and was not prepared for the changes in rice marketing which had taken place since my previous purchase.

Everything was different. Every brand, not just the supermarket’s own, had been repackaged and the bag or box completely redesigned. I didn’t know whose was what and nobody had brown rice any more.

Clearly, at some point during my prolonged rice-buying absence the word “Brown” has been declared infra-dig amongst rice producers. Even Uncle Ben’s Easy Cook Brown rice is no longer “Brown”. These days, it’s wholemeal. There is no normal brown rice to be seen anywhere – now it is all called “wholemeal”.

This interests me. How did the embargo on the word “brown” happen and why? Did all the companies selling rice in Britain get together round a table and decide that the word ‘brown’ had negative connotations? Can you imagine how it went?

Uncle Paul, European Markering Manager, Uncle Ben’s takes the floor.

“Good morning everybody – we’ve some market research results we’d like to share with you. We’ve discovered people associate the word ‘brown’ with pooh while they associate the word ‘wholemeal’ with healthy living so we’re going to change the word ‘brown’ to ‘wholemeal’ anywhere it occurs on our packaging.”

Everyone else.


Now it’s the turn of Uncle Ben, Head Rice Buyer, Waitrose to speak.

“These findings are interesting. We are no more enamoured with the idea of our rice being associated with pooh than you are. Therefore, we will change all our packaging as well and our range of brown rices will henceforward also be called ‘wholemeal’.”

Uncle Edward, Head of Starchy Commestibles, Tescos.

“In order to ensure continuity we, too will do change the name and packaging of our brown rice.”

Uncle Jim, Asda.

“At Asda we pride ourselves on our nimble, flexible, customer-driven approach to marketing starchy goods. We will therefore join you all, re-naming our brown rice ‘wholemeal’ too and changing the way the commodity is marketed for ever. Today is an important day for rice marketing.”

Uncle Bill, Co-Op.

“Let us join hands and say a prayer.”

Hmm… ‘bit of a tangent there. I carried it on too long, too, and milked the joke… well… more than dry. Then again, this is my blog and the whole point I’m here is so I can indulge myself in secret, thus allowing me to write tight, well constructed marketing puff for my paying customers! You thought I was an artist, didn’t you? I am but I don’t earn quite enough doing art alone so I also write corporate puff for people. It’s much harder work than art but it pays marginally more money! Anyway, back to the plot.

Ah yes, let’s rejoin me, standing in the aisle at the supermarket.

The whole, “wholemeal” / “brown” thing raises a practical problem for me. I’m on a healthy eating programme which involves a bit of GI counting. I know the types of rice with the lowest GI which are therefore the best ones for me to buy – or at least I did. But where, before there was own brand easy cook Italian brown rice and Waitrose easy cook American brown rice there is now merely the choice between own brand organic wholemeal rice or own brand non-orgic wholemeal rice.

I’m assuming “brown” is “wholemeal” and therefore the same but this is still a bit of a bummer because the reason I use the easy cook italian brown rice is because it takes much less time to cook than its American cousin. So now I have to work out which of the “wholemeal” rices the supermarket has on offer is the Italian easy cook option. I am stumped.

I nab a nearby assistant and explain my predicament.

She, too, is stumped but refuses to give up. She whips out a phone and dials the “aisle manager” who, she assures me, will know. I ask if she’s sure, if it isn’t a bit of a kerfuffle – as Lou so often tells Andy – but no, she says, that’s just fine. We speculate as to how the brown/wholemeal change took place so seamlessly while we wait for the aisle manager to answer. We giggle over how the rice marketing board – or whoever it was – coordinated such a sudden and all-enveloping packaging coup.

The aisle manager is not answering his phone so she pages him and sure enough, moments later a bored lady announces over the tannoy that Mr ____ should call 191 immediately.

A few second and the beleagured man makes the call, allowing my friendly assistant to put my questions to him. Yes they have changed all the packaging, no, he doesn’t really know why or what’s going on. However, what he DOES know, bless him, is that the wholemeal own brand rice is brown… Does that help? Yes it does, a bit. I have been holding the packet in my hands while all this has been going on. As we are saying our farewells and thank you’s I turn the packet over and look at the back.

“Ingredients…” It says. “Italian Easy Cook Brown Rice.”

Oh dear. I have wasted a lot of this lady’s time for nothing. Luckily she’s finding the whole thing amusing anyway so I show her the packet and apologise. Ah well, at least she will be able to help other confused souls, she tells me after a brief conversation about how I’m channelling Homer Simpson.

We go our separate ways, chuckling merrily.



1. hudds53 - 17, December 2006

Love the story, I can so easily imagine myself doing the same thing. I seem to have more than my share of “Homer” moments, usually good for a laugh.
Have a good day.

2. lea alissa - 18, December 2006

🙂 hahaha…I can see myself when I browse the aisle for Japanese goods at the supermarket..heehee..I live in rice country, all meals here are served with rice. If it helps any, as a general rule, one part rice is cooked with 2 parts liquid (which can be plain water or stock depending on recipe). Bring rice and water to a rolling boil, and then turn to low heat and cover the pot. Do you ever just steam your rice or is it always paella or risotto?

3. Matt - 18, December 2006

I loved this bit:

“These findings are interesting. We are no more enamoured with the idea of our rice being associated with pooh than you are.”

It made me think of some dull, incredibly serious business person saying that line with a deadpan face…to equally serious nods of agreement all round.

Great stuff!

4. babychaos - 19, December 2006

I used to be a marketing manager in a big company. Some people take their jobs very VERY seriously! 😉



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