Since 1937, the Lundbergs have grown healthy, great-tasting rice while stewarding the soil, air, water, and wildlife as carefully as their crops. Lundberg Family Farms, led by the family’s third generation, uses sustainable farming practices and 100% renewable energy to craft wholesome rice, rice cakes, rice chips, risottos, quinoa, and more. All while protecting and improving the planet for future generations.
Before the pandemic, they experienced steady growth thanks to their efforts to optimize the retail distribution of their fastest-selling items.
After shelter-in-place orders were issued, consumers began purchasing staples for home-cooked meals. This resulted in unprecedented demand for their packaged rice, with year-over-year growth never seen before by the company.
Grant Lundberg has been the CEO of Lundberg Family Farms since 1998. He is the grandson of Albert and Frances Lundberg. They moved from Nebraska in 1937 after experiencing the ravaging effects of poor soil management during the dust bowl years.
I was able to speak with Grant about his experience, the importance of organic and what the future may hold.
I asked Grant what measures they are taking to meet increased demand.
Grant told me that, “At Lundberg Family Farms, we have always catered to a need for healthy, safe, great-tasting food. Now more than ever, we are committed to delivering on that promise. So, even while we are apart—whether that means working remotely or social distancing on-site—our team is finding creative ways to work together.
Given the spike in demand for our packaged rice, we have devised a system to help manage our supply and allocate inventory fairly and equitably across existing customers. We have had to prioritize our retail products and shift focus away from supplying ingredients for other food manufacturers, as well as food service.
We have also extended production runs for our most popular items in order to maximize output. And we are working with our distribution team to ensure that everything gets shipped to distributors and retailers in a timely manner—from our farm to store shelves to family tables.”
I wondered how important he thinks being organic is affecting their increase in sales.
Grant replied, “Organic has always been at the heart of our brand. Now, in the midst of this global health crisis, shoppers are turning to healthier foods to support their overall wellbeing. This has resulted in increased demand for organic foods across the board. In fact, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) recently conducted an online poll to understand how consumer demand for organic products is evolving. More than 90% of respondents indicated that organic is more important than ever. When asked how they anticipate their organic shopping habits will evolve over the coming three to six months, respondents said the changes they have experienced (including cooking at home and simplified ways of eating) will become lasting habits.”
I queried Grant about their planning and planting for future consumer trends.
Grant said, “We have just finished planting our largest crop yet, which includes a 20% increase in total acreage! While that is a record year-over-year increase for us, it will not keep pace with the extreme growth we are currently seeing as consumers shift their eating patterns to prepare and consume more meals at home.
As a vertically integrated company that handles everything from seed to finished product, it is difficult to respond to extreme spikes in demand. We always try to have enough cushion to accommodate short-term increases in demand of 10-20%. However, to provide more packaged rice, we need to have more organic acreage, increased farmer capacity and increased seed availability, all of which are long-term processes that can take five years to complete. We have also developed a significant number of new recipes to provide consumers with inspiration to use the rice they have purchased.”
I wondered if any their sustainability practices had changed or evolved since the pandemic.
Grant said, “Lundberg Family Farms was founded on a promise to leave the land better than we found it. So, we lead with a longer view of sustainability by prioritizing soil health, renewable energy, resource recovery, and more. This hasn’t changed since the pandemic. We continue take a holistic approach, ensuring our products are created sustainably every step of the way, from seed to shelf.”
Does Grant envision any positive outcomes for the future after the pandemic subsides?
Grant explained that, “While this season has been difficult for everyone, we hope our products have provided consumers with comfort in the form of a wholesome meal, which goes a long way during times of uncertainty.
We are also encouraged by the increased demand for organic products. We are optimistic that consumers who may have encountered Lundberg rice for the first time during the pandemic will become loyal customers who share our company’s commitment to nourishing, conserving, and innovating for a healthier world.
Finally, we have become more vigilant than ever for opportunities to donate to food banks to make sure everyone has access to safe, healthy, great-tasting food—no matter the circumstances.”
Grant concluded by saying, “At Lundberg Family Farms, our definition of family extends far beyond family-owned. It’s a founding philosophy that means we take care of each other, our customers, and our community.
So, I would like to thank our family—our team, our customers, and our community—for coming together. For showing up. For staying home. For doing their part, despite the circumstances, to take care of each other during this unprecedented season.”
© 2020, Melody Meyer. All rights reserved.