UPDATE : 2018.9.19 WED 18:18
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CJ Cheiljedang eyes expanding exports of traditional Korean sauces

CJ Cheiljedang Corp., South Korea's leading processed food-maker, is pushing to expand exports of traditional Korean sauces to fast growing halal and other overseas markets.

The affiliate of food and entertainment giant CJ Group said the company is in the final stage of its three-year joint research with the Korea Institute of Planning and Evaluation for Technology in Food to develop halal gochujang, or red chili paste.

Halal food refers to products that are prepared in a specific way according to Islamic Sharia law, which covers not only meat but also fruits and vegetables.

"We have decreased the alcohol content generated in the fermentation process and are working on ways to prevent the product from going bad while being distributed overseas due to the reduction of alcohol," Oh Seon-mi, a food research and development specialist at CJ Cheiljedang, told reporters on Friday at one of its plants in Nonsan, 213 kilometers south of Seoul.

The plant is the largest gochujang production facility in the world, with an annual production capacity of 55,440 tons, according to the company.

Combined with three other adjacent plants that make doenjang, or fermented soybean paste, and ssamjang, a mix of gochujang and doenjang, the four plants produce some 100,000 tons of fermented pastes per year.

CJ Cheiljedang is currently assessing the Middle East and Southeast Asian markets to come up with a detailed plan to launch the halal product.

"We are reviewing the commercialization of halal gochujang as a medium to long-term plan," Oh said. "The halal market is very big, but at the same time very different from any other markets that we have made forays into. We are carefully analyzing the market at the moment."

In this photo provided by CJ Cheiljedang Corp., a visitor uses the company's gochujang-based sauce bar at its booth during KCON, a global K-pop festival organized by CJ, in New York, which was held from June 23-24, 2017. (Yonhap)

The latest research on halal gochujang is part of a broader global drive pushed by the food giant.

Last year, CJ Cheiljedang developed technology to reduce the level of non-harmful microorganisms in gochujang to meet the different standards of foreign countries.

"Koreans are used to fermented pastes and have a good understanding of the existence of non-harmful microbes, but in the eyes of foreigners, the level is comparatively high, so we are reducing the level depending on the export market," the researcher Oh said.

The gochujang with reduced microorganisms is currently exported to firms in the United States and Japan in business-to-business partnerships to be used as a base for their respective sauce production, it said.

Outbound shipments of CJ Cheiljedang's fermented paste products jumped 40 percent from 5,125 tons in 2013 to 7,195 tons in 2017.

The company said it expects the Korean traditional sauces to gain further recognition overseas down the road as they can be applied in various dishes -- from soups to fried foods -- adding that it wants to play a key role in the process.

According to customs data, exports of South Korea's traditional sauces reached a record high in 2016, with the combined overseas sales of ganjang, or Korean soy sauce, gochujang and doenjang rising 8 percent on-year to reach US$53 million.

Exports of gochujang rose 10.8 percent on-year to $31.3 million during the cited period, accounting for 59.3 percent of the total exports.

By country, the United States was the biggest importer of South Korean traditional sauces as exports to the North American country accounted for 29.9 percent of the total overseas sales, followed by China with 16.9 percent and Japan with 7 percent.

The size of South Korea's fermented pastes market grew from 100 billion won in early 2000 to surpass 300 billion won last year, but it has been shrinking in recent years as more consumers seek simple and ready-to-eat products, CJ Cheiljedang said. (Yonhap)

Park Byung-uk  edt@koreapost.com

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