Over 60% of perilla oil is fatty acid and α-linolenic acid (omega-3), which are well-known for their anti-cancer effects and the prevention and cure of arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure. The awareness of these benefits among consumers has given birth to a new trend of having 5 to 10㎖ of perilla oil a day. Seowondang Food, located in Wonju City of Gangwon Province, presses this healthy oil in-house and exports it overseas. The company’s president, Kim Bong-hyun, started his business because he wanted to offer children a natural, good-for-the-body seasoning in today’s world full of strong-tasting foods.
Production of Safe Oil
The strongest point of Seowondang Food is that the company makes it products by low-temperature pressing. Generally, perilla oil is squeezed at high temperatures of 200 to 210℃, which increases the oil’s aroma but also adds benzopyrene, an agent that can cause cancer and other health problems. In contrast, Seowondang Food produces perilla oil at a low temperature of 140℃. The squeezing method also gives the oil its golden color. Kim says with pride, “Our oil does not contain benzopyrene, and the quantities of iodine and acid never exceed the standards.”
Seowondang Food obtains the ingredients—perilla and sesame seeds—from farms in Hoengseong, Gangwon Province, through contract cultivation. Currently, there are seventeen participating farms. The choice of the region is based on the fact that the clean natural environment and large daily temperature ranges make the flavor of local perilla and sesame particularly rich. In addition, thanks to the proximity, Kim is able to personally visit the farms and ensure no produce from other regions is mixed in. The oil is pressed only from perilla and sesame seeds, without any additives. Moreover, it is never produced in advance but always to order.
Kim says, “We only use perilla and sesame grown in ecologically clean areas. I tell farmers, ‘I will take care of the distribution. Your responsibility is to supply good ingredients’.”
Favorable Responses from Japan, China, and North America
The rigorous production standards have been duly appreciated by consumers. Even though the company started the production in earnest in January last year, its sales have already reached over US$ 140,000. Foreign buyers also show a positive response. The company’s exports—perilla oil, raw perilla oil, and sesame oil—account for over US $53,000 in the overall sales volume. Perilla and sesame oil are shipped to the US and Canada, whereas raw perilla oil is exported to Japan.
Kim explains, “A Japanese buyer asked us to reduce the package size from 170㎖ to 120㎖. We immediately fulfilled his request and he was highly satisfied. Since then, we have been steadily shipping the product to Japan.” Negotiations are also underway with a Chinese company. Kim says, “A Chinese manufacturer of walnut oil suggested that we jointly produce gift sets with both of our products inside. We are currently discussing the deal with them.”
In addition, Seowondang Food operates an education and experience center for children to learn about perilla and sesame. Located at the Wonju Central Market, the center offers a variety of experiential activities including making fried glutinous rice crackers with sesame and perilla, making rice balls, and squeezing perilla oil and sesame oil.
A Promise to Continue Focusing on the Production of Good Products
Seowondang Food’s goal for this year is to double its exports to US$ 100,000. To achieve this goal, Kim plans to develop new products and expand the factory and administrative building.
He says, “Through my recent experience of exports to Japan, I came to realize that we need more products in addition to Gat Raw Perilla Oil to appeal to the Japanese market. At FOODEX Japan 2017 held on March, I gained an idea to create sauces.” He emphasizes, “Good seasoning is like an invigorant. It is very important to make products in the right way, even if it takes longer to do so. Seowondang thinks beyond just the flavor and scent of a product. We have a mindset that we are responsible for the health of consumers.”
Tel +82-70-4177-4157 (Kim Bong-hyun, CEO)
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