Even though eating is one of the greatest joys in our lives, many of us do not or cannot cook. Busy couples working together to make a living, single people living by themselves, the elderly, and many others prefer having a delicious and convenient meal without having to cook. That is why so many frozen foods are consumed these days. When made with safe and healthy ingredients, they may feel like a godsend to many consumers.
One company producing these products in Korea is Hanwoomul Agriculture Union Corporation (hereafter, Hanwoomul). Located in Gimje City of North Jeolla Province, it specializes in processing agricultural produce to make convenient-to-use sauces and frozen foods. Its processed rice products—different kinds of fried rice, rice mixed with seasoned vegetables, and rice soup—retain a unique Korean flavor. They use rice produced in North Jeolla Province and various vegetables and herbs including onion, bell pepper, thistle, and radish leaf. The main products are Fried Rice with Shrimp and Vegetables, Seasoned Rice with Thistle, and Deluxe Rice with Quinoa. To make it into a meal, you need to microwave the product for 4 minutes and add a sauce.
Hanwoomul’s sales in the domestic market exceed US$ 1.3 million a year. The high recognition of the products’ taste and quality can be evidenced in the fact that they are supplied to Costco Korea.
A Rigorous Quality Management System
When the company was first established in 2006, it started with frozen fried rice because it anticipated a rise in the consumption of convenience food. As its expectation came true, sales rapidly increased. At that time, several large companies entered the market, and Hanwoomul concluded an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) contract with one of them.
Ohm Sang-hee, the head of the New Business Department at Hanwoomul, says, “We have been growing fast because our products suit the current trends. An increase in the number of people living by themselves and couples where both people work has led to an expansion of demand for our products. Furthermore, OEM contracts with large companies is significantly beneficial for us to develop our technologies.”
Since the very beginning, Hanwoomul has had an ambition of becoming a global company and hence made much effort to obtain various certifications. For example, the company obtained the ISO 9001 Quality Management System certification in 2008 and received the GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) certification in 2009. It has top-notch production equipment and operates under a rigorous quality management system in order to produce safe food. As a result of these efforts, Hanwoomul succeeded in exporting its products to Canada in 2010 and since then has expanded its markets to Taiwan, the US, and Japan. Last year’s exports amounted to US$ 35,000. The company is trying to advance further in Taiwan by offering Seasoned Rice with Thistle under its own brand. It also plans to make a test shipment of Jeonju-style Bibimbap and Deluxe Rice with Quinoa to the US worth US$ 30,000.
Securing the Market by Developing the World’s First Seasoned Rice with Thistle
Consumers’ satisfaction with Hanwoomul’s products is very high. The company has been able to achieve it by integrating Korean traditional methods with cutting-edge technologies, using natural ingredients, and consistently investing in R&D. For example, it cooks rice, the basic ingredient of its products, through a traditional iron pot firing method, as opposed to steaming which is thought to produce less delicious rice. At the final stage, the products use IQF (individual quick freezing), a latest technology for freezing foods at a very low temperature, -60 ℃, which helps to retain the original flavor of ingredients.
Hanwoomul’s continuous investment in R&D led played a crucial role in the development of its products with thistle in 2013. Many Koreans enjoy the scent and flavor of rice mixed with thistle. It is also healthy because thistle is rich in Vitamin A, calcium, and other nutrients and contains cellulose which can help to reduce the level of blood cholesterol. By becoming the first in the field to launch a frozen rice with thistle product, Hanwoomul opened a new market for Korean-style dishes using rice and vegetables and has been holding an unchallenged position in it ever since.
Ohm says, “We are advancing to foreign markets by offering products of the type common all around the world—fried rice—but with Korean characteristics. We also strive to obtain certificates in advanced countries such as the US and the UK. Since our goal is to become a global company, we will approach foreign markets with a long-term strategy.”
Hanwoomul Agriculture Union Corporation
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