Korean red ginseng is well known as a healthy food. Saponin, one of the main components of ginseng, has been scientifically proven to be effective in preventing cancer and decreasing cholesterol levels, thus every Korean, regardless of sex or age, thinks red ginseng is very good for the body.
Korean red ginseng products enjoy wide popularity both at home and abroad. Although traditionally ginseng is processed by decocting or extracting, these days Korean ginseng companies offer a wide range of products including capsules, candy, and jeolpyeon (pounded ginseng). Even in this variety, Ginseng Biotech’s baked ginseng product called “Gusam” is truly unique. It is a convenience product that can be consumed similarly to single-serving fruit snacks such as bite-sized banana pieces or a fruit salad. Sold in Starbucks stores, Gusam is receiving much attention in Korea and beyond.
Bringing Back Childhood Memories by Developing a New Product
Baked ginseng is not a common way of preparing ginseng even in Korea. Kim Su-gyeom, CEO of Ginseng Biotech, says, “I was raised on a ginseng farm, which has been our family business for generations. We used to bake ginseng over a wood fire in the cold winter season while resting and warming up the body. The baking process removes the ginseng smell, softens the root, and makes it as sweet as a banana or sweet potato. It is delicacy of ginseng farmers. I wanted to introduce it to many people and that is why I invented a processed baked ginseng product.”
It is easy to have baked ginseng roots for farmers who can cook them over the fire and eat them right away. However, commercializing the baked ginseng is much more difficult as evidenced in the fact that very few products on the market retain the original shape of the root. It took Ginseng Biotech two years of arduous research to create the baked ginseng product.
Kim explains about Gusam: “It can be stored for 12 months. Despite the relatively long storage period, the original taste and texture of baked ginseng are maintained because we found the optimal drying time through much research and numerous experiments. Gusam is a natural product made only with fresh ginseng and without any sugar, additives, colorings, or preservatives. The processing method increases not only the ginseng’s sugar content (to 23.4 Brix) but saponin as well.”
According to the component analysis conducted in 2014 by Chungcheongnamdo Agricultural Research & Extension Institute, the amount of saponin (32 ginsenoside elements) in Gusam is greater than that in fresh ginseng products. For example, there are 6.80 mg/g of ginsenoside Rb1 and 1.73 mg/g of ginsenoside Rb2. Both Rb1 and Rb2 are known to be excellent for preventing and treating diabetes, a major threat to human health in the modern era. Ginseng Biotech had its method of manufacturing baked ginseng registered and patented by KIPO (the Korean Intellectual Property Office) in 2012.
Sold Online and Offline in China Not as a Health Food but as a Common Foodstuff
To promote Gusam, Ginseng Biotech has been actively participating in food exhibitions in China, Japan, the UAE, and other countries since 2014. Thanks to these efforts, the company signed an exclusive contract with a big distributor in China last February. Gusam is now available at online shopping malls such as We Chat and Alibaba and will soon be distributed through offline stores as well. Kim says, “Gusam for the Chinese market is made with ginseng younger than 5 years. This allows it to be sold as regular food rather than health food, so Chinese consumers can buy it very easily at a local supermarket or an online shopping mall.”
Expanding Export Markets to the UAE and Other Countries by Diversification of Products
Ginseng Biotech is working hard to develop new baked ginseng products for export. One such product is Gusam Stick Mix. It is baked ginseng first ground and then diluted with water, available in stick-shaped pouches. Consumers can add it to milk, juice, coffee, or yogurt, or simply squeeze it and have it as is.
The company is currently exploring the possibility of exports of bite-sized jeolpyeon (pounded ginseng cake) to Dubai. Kim says, “We participated in a food expo held in Dubai and received a positive response from local buyers. The product we offer them is pocket size, individually wrapped and easy to carry. We are also doing our best to further diversify our production line with products that can appeal to consumers in Vietnam, Japan, and other countries.”
Tel +82-41-362-8819 (Direct line for export inquiries: Kim Su-gyeom, CEO of Ginseng Biotech, +82-10-6420-6331)
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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