In Korea, the food keywords are: organic, local, and sustainable. Organic grocery stores that were a novelty a few years ago are now everywhere. Even large department stores have a section dedicated to organic, local, and sustainable foods. Koreans are more curious about the sourcing and the means of production of foods these days. You’ll see more Koreans reading labels at the grocery stores and reading up on brands on the internet. Koreans will scrutinize what sort of oil is used, if there are artificial flavoring agents, and if GMO ingredients are used. Consumers are smarter now and want better ingredients that are produced in a healthy fashion. Just offering “bigger” or adding the moniker “Well-Being” to the label is not enough.
There is an emphasis on farms as people want to know the farming practices and there is more pressure on farmers to go pesticide free. Over in Yangpyeong county, the local government is supporting farmers by helping them become organic farmers and have created a “Special Zone for Environmentally Friendly Agriculture.” They offer incentives and education for farmers to become organic. The Mayor, Kim Sun-kyo, says in his Mayor’s Message that Yangpyeong is, “an eco-city where there is a harmony of nature and people! A rich farming land that produces safe, eco-friendly agricultural products that result in high income for the hard working farmers!” Other places in the city are also putting an emphasis on becoming eco-friendly. There are urban farms such as in the Incheon Urban Agriculture Network (IUAN) and the rooftop gardens by Marche in Hongdae.
Here is a list of some of the leading organic companies in Korea.
Orga Whole Food
Orga Whole Food is the premium, organic storefront for the Pulmuone corporation. Pulmuone was has a long history of being one of the first organic food corporations in Korea. They started their company in 1981 as Pulmuone Chemical-free Product Market in Apgujeong-dong. The founder Won Kyung-sun has strong ethics and principles of creating healthy, clean food. Because of this, his company has grown with an annual income of over KRW1 trillion (USD$1 billion). Founder Won was one of the first to show transparency in the sourcing and creation of food products. The company introduced LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) standards to Korea and its aim is to become a global company.
Its signature products include its healthy and clean tofu, its pesticide-free bean sprouts, dried fruit chips and its organic line for babies.
Hansalim began in 1986. It has more than 2,500 producers and nearly 1 million consumer members. Hansalim is among the world’s biggest and most successful farming cooperatives. It created an alternative economy that supports organic farmers and local agriculture that produces healthy food while simultaneously protecting the environment. At Hansalim, customers and producers meet every year to choose what product and the amount of product they will deliver. Then they mutually decide on the price of goods for the accompanying season. These prices are locked in and even if, let’s say, a disaster occurs, such as the kimchi crisis in 2010 which raised the prices of cabbage to prohibitive levels. While non-Hansalim members were looking at paying close to KRW10,000 (USD$9.00) per head of cabbage retail, Hansalim members paid the price that was locked in the year previous at about KRW1,500 (USD$1.30). Hansalim also runs the only livestock-feed factory in Korea that uses only local feed sources from nearby farmers. Unlike the majority of livestock farmers, Hansalim livestock is therefore not dependent on the feed imports that make up the majority of South Korean grain imports. Its signature products include its local vegetables and grains as well as its barley pork and local beef.
Choroc Maeul was started by the Hankyoreh Newspaper group in 1999. In 2002, it opened its first store in the Mapo area of Seoul. Its company motto is about how Choroc means organic and it supports local farmers. Now it has 380 stores in this country and an online shopping mall that sells around 1,500 eco-friendly organic products. It believes in eco-friendly and environmentally conscious food distribution. Another pillar of its organization is its emphasis on food safety. It makes sure its product is free of diseases and dangerous pesticides. It also makes sure the product is handled properly before being sold or delivered to the consumers. It distributes products according to the LOHAS standards. The company has now been sold to the Daesang Company.
Its top selling items include its organic rice, its line of kids juices such as its apple and strawberry juice, and its organic milk.
iCoop started in 1998 under the name of 21. Its current name, iCoop, stands for ideal, innocence, innovation, cooperative. iCoop is focused on being the bridge between farmers and consumers. Its belief is that through responsible and ethically business practices―such as fair trade, fair travel, human rights, and social enterprise―it can solve the agricultural problem in Korea and solve the problems in Korean society.
Its signature products include its exclusive line of instant noodle, dumplings, kimchi, and pancake mixes that use local flour.
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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