Gyodong Food Exports USD$2M Worth of Products Annually
When the seasons change, Koreans look for health foods to avoid getting sick. One of the representative traditional health foods is samgyetang. The dish is made by boiling a whole chicken stuffed with ginseng, glutinous rice, dates, chestnuts, sea cucumbers, and other ingredients in broth. In the past, Koreans often had this chicken soup served hot on the hottest days of summer. They rationalized it as “fighting heat with heat,” and the tradition continues to this day. Cooking samgyetang at home, however, can be troublesome as it requires much time and effort. Thus, many ready-to-cook samgyetang products have been released in the market so that anyone can easily prepare the dish. One can buy such products overseas as well, in Japan, the US, and Hong Kong, for example. Behind the exports are Korean companies such as Gyodong Food Co., Ltd, a medium-size enterprise with long-term experience in the field and a range of delicious products awaiting foreign consumers.
A basic Korean meal usually consists of a bowl of rice, kimchi, and soup (guk or tang in Korean). Gyodong Food specializes in the production of soups. It started its business in 1996 making seasoned pork ribs and later extended its production lines to include naengmyeon-yuksu (beef broth for cold noodles) and yukgaejang (spicy meat stew) with beef bones. Currently, its main products are samgyetang, yukgaejang, kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew), and naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles in broth).
In addition, Gyodong Food supplies samgyetang, kimchi-jjigae, and other products to large companies under OEM agreements. Jumbo-sized naengmyeon-yuksu and all sorts of soup products are distributed to food service companies. As part of efforts to secure its own distribution channels, the company is also selling various soups and yukgaejang noodles to service companies through its own stores. The export scale in 2015 was USD$2 million, and this year, Gyodong Food is hoping to reach its target of USD$3 million.
Convenience Samgyetang Products in Pouches
Gyodong Food’s samgyetang products are exported to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other markets, and enjoying popularity there thanks to their delicious flavor. The company sells them under the brand name Howchon, which means “good village” in Chinese. Howchon samgyetang preserves the unique taste of Korean traditional samgyetang and, thanks to the popularity of Hallyu (the Korean Wave), it has been able enter high-end stores (department stores and organic food shops) in Japan and Hong Kong.
Howchon samgyetang is made with chicken, ginseng, glutinous rice, dates, and garlic and is offered in pouches that have been heat-treated for 4 minutes at 120℃. The process removes microbes, which allows the product to be stored at room temperature for up to one year. Only the freshest chicken, free of antibiotic residues, is used. To prepare the product, all you have to do is to warm up the pouch.
On the way to the Japanese market, Gyodong Food’s samgyetang does not need to undergo the quarantine procedures of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. This is because Gyodong Food is a pre-registered certificate holder, meaning that quarantine officers dispatched by the Japanese government to Korea have confirmed that the company’s production process is safe. Both the facilities and the manufacturing process have to meet strict safety requirements to obtain the certification.
Kim Byeong-kuk, CEO of Gyodong Food company, said, “Thanks to the pre-registered certificate system agreed upon by the Korean and Japanese governments, our company’s products are exempted from quarantine.” He continued, “We’ve also acquired HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certification issued by Korean authorities and ISO22000 (International Organization for Standardization dealing with food safety), and both are good until 2017.”
Advancing Abroad with Customized Products and Prices Matching Local Circumstances
The price of Howchon samgyetang differs by country, ranging from USD$10 to 12 per 1 kg. Out of price considerations for consumers in Southeast Asia, Gyodong Food launched a bangyetang product, which uses half a chicken, in those countries. The company plans to release chicken porridge, tongdari-samgyetang (made with chicken legs), and other products in a wider price range. The development of other products―such as curry samgyetang, perilla samgyetang, and pine nut samgyetang―which are good for health and cater to the preferences of local consumers, is also underway.
Mr. Kim promises, “Even though our company is trying to develop a variety of versions of samgyetang, we will stick to ginseng and glutinous rice as the main ingredients.” He elaborated, “The majority of consumers who buy our products overseas have tried samgyetang in Korea, so we should preserve the flavor of the traditional dish. We are trying to build trust with consumers by holding fast to the use of ginseng, glutinous rice, dates, and chestnuts grown in Korea.”
The Korea-China FTA has opened the door for exporting samgyetang to the Chinese market, and Gyodong Food is planning to take advantage of this opportunity. The company has already been registered as a potential exporter and is waiting for Chinese authorities to conduct export safety inspections. In April, employees of the R&D department of Kyodong Food will visit China to learn about local food cultures so that they can develop new products that will appeal to Chinese palates.
Mr. Kim revealed, “We are focusing on the Chinese market this year, but we are also considering advancing into the US. And that’s not all. We will participate in an international food exhibition held in Moscow and use it as momentum to make an appearance in European markets.”
Export of Naengmyeon with Traditional Broth
Gyodong Food’s naengmyeon is second in popularity overseas. Howchon naengmyeon uses broth that is made by dongchimi (radish water kimchi) with meat broth made by simmering vegetables. The product is supplied in packages of differing design according to the country. The safe production system in which the product is flash-treated with heat at 200℃ allows it to be stored at room temperature. Mr. Kim says, “Because its broth is made in the traditional way, Howchon naengmyeon has an excellent flavor.”
Inquiries Gyodong Food Co., Ltd.
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