Chungarang, Production of Baby
Oyster Mushrooms with Better Flavor and Texture
You can easily find Matari mushroom on display in big supermarkets in Korea. It sounds like the name of a mushroom type and many people think it really is. But, in fact, Matari mushroom is a brand name for the oyster mushrooms produced by Chungarang Farming Corporation located in Gonjiam, Gyeonggi-do.
Oyster Mushroom in Plastic Bottles
Im Sung-hyunk, the CEO of Chungarang who developed Matari mushroom, began cultivation of oyster mushrooms in 1999. Since then, he has been producing this mushroom variety for 15 years. After graduating from college in 1997, he returned to his hometown, Gonjiam, wanting to start up his own business rather than enter a large, famous company. He decided to engage in agriculture as that was his major in college. His choice fell to mushrooms because mushroom consumption at that time was on the rise due to the recognition of mushroom as a health food. And, what’s more, government support was available.
In 1999, after over a year of vigorous preparations, he started a mushroom farm. But his endeavor was a fiasco at first. Mushrooms did not even sprout. On the brink of bankruptcy, as a last resort, Mr. Im adopted the system of bottle cultivation of oyster mushrooms, which is relatively easy to manage. Bottle cultivation is a method of growing mushrooms by putting a culture medium made of sawdust as the main ingredient in plastic bottle-shaped containers and injecting seeds. It has now become a universal method, but back then only a handful of farmers were experimenting with it. Mr. Im was thus one of the first to introduce the bottle cultivation system in the production of mushrooms.
Year-Round Production in Modernized Facilities
The Matari mushroom produced by Chungarang is a baby oyster mushroom, which is smaller than the average oyster mushroom. It is characterized by a more flavorful scent and chewier texture than other types of oyster mushrooms. Now, Chungarang is enjoying belated success and raking up annual sales of KRW7 billion from the sales of several types of mushrooms, including Matari, at major supermarkets.
However, the beginning of sales did not go smoothly either. Even though the high quality of Chungarang’s mushrooms was confirmed by an eco-friendly agri-product certification, the mushrooms were treated by the market as a lower-quality product due to the different shape and size compared to ordinary oyster mushrooms. To demonstrate that the difference was actually an advantage of Chungarang’s mushrooms, the company launched its current brand Matari. Mr. Im explains that he named it “Matari” to emphasize that that the mushroom is different in shape but tastier. Afterwards, the sales of Matari mushroom started increasing and were boosted further by a series of sampling events.
Other keys to the success are the stable supply and freshness of the product. Chungarang is able to produce mushrooms all year round thanks to the automated facilities and precision environmental control system. The farm is equipped with a pre-cooling system and a cold-chain system is used throughout the entire process of product distribution. All these are built on the steady foundation of thorough hygiene education for the workers and hygiene control.
First Exports in 2011, Advancing to the US and Hong Kong
Based on its success in the Korean market, Chungarang started advancing overseas in 2011. Mr. Im is aspiring to pioneer into the markets abroad with the baby oyster mushroom. From the very first export deal to the US, the company used the same brand name, Matari, as the one in the domestic market.
As freshness is particularly important in exporting agri-products, Chungarang pays utmost attention to the packaging of the mushrooms to be exported. The products remain fresh for 45~50 days if kept refrigerated.
Mr. Im says that the exports are currently in the infant stage because the Chungarang products are present only in the American, Hong Kong, and Australian markets. He continues, “Since few countries produce small oyster mushrooms now, buyers are very interested in our mushrooms. Currently, Chungarang is negotiating with buyers from Japan and Canada.”
Inquiries Chungarang Farming Corporation
Park Sung Eun email@example.com
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