Food brand channels Willy Wonka to hide prizes on individual grains of rice 

Ecuador's Arroz Super Extra hired an artist to paint 20 grains of rice with prize-winning messages and hid them in its bags for people to find

In January 2024, Ecuador’s number-one rice brand, Arroz Super Extra, announced a Willy Wonka-esque promotional campaign: the brand offered prizes including airline tickets, cruises, a trip to the Galapagos, smartphones and laptops, but to win, one of the 20 special grains of rice had to be found.

The grains were handpainted with minsicule illustrations of the prizes and were hidden in special bags of Arroz Super Extra, which were packaged in black for the campaign. Copy on these bags declared, ‘Your bag of rice could contain a winning grain.’

To promote the competition, Arroz Super Extra released a series of humorous TV commercials depicting hopeful customers going to extreme lengths to retrieve winning grains. One plunges his hand into boiling water after spotting a special grain in the rice he’s cooking – another destroys his daughter’s rice-based artwork.

The El Grano Extra campaign was created by Grey Ecuador, Quito, and was supported by social media content, including influencers. To create the winning grains, the brand partnered with Sri Lankan micro artist Daya, who used special vegetable paint. Those who find the award-winning rice grains could claim their prizes on the campaign website

‘In a nod to Willy Wonka’s golden ticket experience, El Grano Extra demonstrates the rich, untapped territory between physical, thrilling experiences and direct contact with the product,’ said Pipo Morano, CCO of Grey Ecuador, in a statement. ‘In our very virtual world, promotional campaigns are often boring and don’t rely on in-person experiences. We flipped the script.’

Contagious Insight 

Reasons to buy / Promotions – particularly supermarket-based FMCG brand promotional campaigns – are too often functional and unimaginative, based on discounts and standard point-of-sale materials. As Grey Ecuador’s Pipo Morano astutely points out, this campaign creates an experience around the promotion, gamifying the experience of buying and cooking rice. And rice is a staple product. In Ecuador, people consume 59kg per capita per year of the stuff. So unlike premium or luxury goods that one might consider buying less frequently – high-end wine or chocolate, for example – it’s more of a challenge to get people excited about it. As the market leader, Arroz Super Extra has the challenge of sustaining growth and maintaining its relevance; with this engaging proposition, Arroz Super Extra gets people to look at its product differently, quite literally.

Against the grain / It’s fun to see a food brand do anything but talk about product benefits like taste and quality. Even if Arroz Super Extra is Ecuador’s number one brand, how much can it really differentiate its product from other rice brands? By eschewing food ad tropes and instead focusing on delivering a fun experience for its customers, the brand banks on the lure of prizes and experiences to earn media attention. The humorous tone of the TV ads also feels unexpected for the category: rather than food-porn style images of steaming piles of rice or earnest origin stories about the brand and its production processes, we get genuine comedy and mischief. For another example of a brand turning its packaging into a treasure hunt, check out Rescue of the ‘S’ by Peruvian beer brand Tres Cruces.

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