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Wed 4 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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Rice cakes find Middle East niche

One Australian company is hoping to tap a demand for healthy rice-based snacks in the Middle East.

With people increasingly looking for healthier snacks to replace crisps and confectionery, Sun Rice, an Australian rice producer, is making its rice cakes available in the Middle East. The cakes are available in seven varieties, including herb and spice, sun dried tomato and basil, and plain.

The entire range is already available in Jordan, where it is being marketed by Sun Rice’s exclusive distributor in the country, Nader Group. “Jordan is the only market with the entire range although our rice cake products are currently available in other Middle East markets,” Russell Heffernan, regional general manager of Sun Rice for the Middle East, told Retail News Middle East.

“Rice cakes are still seen as a niche product within the Middle East but there is a growing demand as this product provides a low calorie, healthier snack alternative.”

Sun Rice expects its cakes to appeal to a wide consumer base including children and health conscious adults. “Initially we have been directed in product placement to higher end supermarkets, where consumers have an enhanced knowledge of health issues and enjoy being tempted by new products that have broad family appeal,” Heffernan said.

“We believe our rice cakes will eventually establish a solid demand base with a broad selection of consumers who enjoy either the health benefits of the plain rice cake range or appreciate the lower calorie aspects of the flavoured range.”

Heffernan added that at present, the rice cakes are not seen as a core, streamlined product line and he thinks there will be a growing demand for products that offer an alternative to the type of unhealthy snacks that people are mostly accustomed to. “There will be a growing demand for product alternatives which offer taste without the high calories and other imposing additives which accompany so many snack foods within the market today.

“[Rice cakes] offer taste without the high calories and other imposing additives, which accompany so many snack foods. The rice cake range is important for SunRice as we expand our business portfolio around the region,” Heffernan said.

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