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California-grown rice finds favor within Asian community

March 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
An Orange County entrepreneur is doing something that many people once thought was not possible: He's successfully selling American-grown rice to the Asian community in Southern California. The new brand of rice is rising in popularity.

Rice is a staple in Asian countries: "For breakfast for lunch and for dinner," said Peter Quoi Pham, owner of Panda Rice.

But most Asian rice is grown overseas. A Vietnamese-American man is now trying to change that. Peter Quoi Pham met a Northern California rice-grower while on a cruise and decided to go into business with him.

"First, we don't know how the customers would react to the American rice because all these years they've been eating jasmine rice," said Pham.

Pham calls the product "Panda Rice." He says with lower sugar content and "Grade A" approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the domestic rice is healthier. And with sky-high fuel prices, the cost is lower than imported rice.

"It comes at a time when our economy is down, and we should each do our part to boost it," said Panda Rice customer Anh Do.

Whether it's the marketing, the taste, or the support of the American economy, it is a hit with customers, growing wildly in markets around the United States. Pham says he's sold 1,100 bags in two weeks.

"I think it's pretty neat to have a Vietnamese-American making rice, a traditional Asian product that's now popular worldwide right here," said Anh Do.

In just three months, the rice has become so popular in communities throughout the United States, Pham is now planning to export it to Asia, South America, Europe and the Middle East.

"I'm hoping that I'm getting more support from not only the Vietnamese community but all the ethnic groups as well," said Pham.

And it's all starting right here in Southern California.