Sikhye (sweet rice punch) and sujeonggwa (cinnamon punch) are traditional beverages loved by many Koreans. One of the companies exploring the beverages’ export potential is Seojung Cooking located in Icheon City of Gyeonggi Province. It makes its products using traditional methods under the principle of “slow cooking.”
Like Cooking at Home, with Consumers’ Health in Mind
Most businesses prefer mass production because manufacturing and selling many products at once is financially advantageous. In contrast, Seojung Cooking makes its products following homemade food recipes. Seo Jung-oak, President of Seojung Cooking, said, “We make sikhye and sujeonggwa slowly, as if at home. We believe that the food made in such a way has a better flavor, and is good for the health of consumers.”
Seo explained, “When making sikhye, it takes over five hours to saccharize rice with malt. During this process, malt enzymes produce many substances beneficial for the body.”
“The same is true for sujeonggwa. Its unique pungency comes forth as we boil cinnamon, ginger, and dried persimmons in a cauldron for a long time. That is why we call them ‘slow sikhye’ and ‘slow Sujeonggwa.’ Mass production methods does not yield the same flavor. We stick to slow cooking methods to differentiate ourselves from others, to captivate people’s tastes.”
Focus on the Use of Fresh Ingredients and Food Safety
Other priorities of Seojung Cooking are food safety and fresh ingredients. The company acquired the G-mark certification by the Gyeonggi Province Administration and the traditional food certification (for sikhye) in 2009 and the organically processed food certification in 2010. Its focus is on production of sikhye and sujeonggwa from fresh ingredients—rice, dried persimmons, cinnamon, ginger, malt, etc.—without any additives. The main ingredient, rice, is the award-winning Imgeumnimpyo Icheon brand.
Seojung Cooking initially made only products that needed to be stored frozen, but recently, the company started the production of refrigerated foods. It was also able to extend the storage period from three to six months, by changing the packaging material. Seo said, “We produced only a small quantity of frozen products at first. Then, through trial and error, we were able to produce and distribute refrigerated sikhye." She added, “I believe that our refrigerated products taste better than products of other companies exported in retort pouches.”
Slow Sikhye and Slow Sujeonggwa Gain More Recognition Overseas
Slow Sikhye and Slow Sujeonggwa of Seojung Cooking were first exported to foreign markets last July. This was the result of test shipments to Canada, the UK, and the US where the products received favorable reviews. Overall, the company exported US$ 28,100 worth of products last year. Seo said, “The reaction was very positive when we first introduced our products overseas. We interpreted it as a sign of a good potential for our products and started exports.”
This year, Seojung Cooking aims to export US$ 100,000 of Slow Sikhye and Slow Sujeonggwa, and aspires to achieve US$ 1 million in exports in 2020. It has a strong ambition to develop and export beverages for markets of the Islamic world, too.
Seo said, “To conquer the market, you have to change your products according to its needs. We are currently working on a beverage combining the cornelian cherry grown in Icheon with purple carrots of Pakistan, and hope to nurture it into a world-class beverage.”
Lee Hyun Woo firstname.lastname@example.org
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