Chinese people have lunch at a cafeteria run by Ourhome in Nanjing. / Courtesy of Ourhome
This is the fifth in a series of articles on Korean food companies and restaurants seeking to expand overseas. ― ED.
Ourhome CEO Lee Seung-woo
By Park Si-soo
Ourhome is gearing up efforts to set up food and restaurant services available around the world.
The company, spun off from LG Group in 2000, has been running cafeterias associated with Korean companies in the Chinese cities of Qingdao, Nanjing and Guangzhou since 2009.
It's now endeavoring to enter other Chinese cities with the ambitious goal of offering its corporate cafeteria services to non-Korean customers in Europe, the United States and even Africa in the near future. The firm earned 23 billion won ($21.2 million) in sales last year from business in China.
Ourhome exports processed food and ready meals to some Asian countries, including Japan. However, sales from the segment remain small, compared with the firm's total sales of 1.2 trillion won last year. The company is poised to make sizable investment into the business to create a new growth engine.
The company's latest achievement is a storage technique designed to keep kimchi's flavor unspoiled in a refrigerator for up to 100 days. The new technique will help increase the firm's sales of kimchi in remote countries where the products are exported by vessels.
"This is a landmark achievement," an Ourhome spokesman said, referring to the technology which was awarded last year by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. "The extension of the storage period was possible with a special liquid containing six types of lactic acid bacteria. The liquid slows down the fermentation process to extend the period up to 100 days from the previous 20-30 days."
The demand for kimchi, the country's signature fermented side dish, is growing rapidly in the United States, Europe and Latin American states for health reasons. In February, U.S. First lady Michelle Obama eulogized kimchi in a tweeter comment.
On top of this, the company has joined forces with the government to enter Muslim countries. Under the partnership, the company has conducted a variety of studies and research to secure "halal" certification in major Muslim countries by July next year.
"The project focuses on developing ways to secure the (halal) certification for the company's soups, kimchi, dried seaweed, noodles, tofu and basic seasonings," the spokesman said.
The certification is conferred on meat, vegetable and other food products that have been slaughtered, harvested or processed in a way recognized by Islamic Law. It's not mandatory for Muslim people to consume only halal-certified products, but it is obvious certified products have a massive marketing advantage in these countries. The global halal food market is estimated to be worth $661.6 billion as of 2010, according to the World Halal Forum.
Ourhome is set to launch a fast food restaurant chain specializing in Korean food under the brand "Babidabida," the global corporate identity for the company's restaurant business. Babidabida means "Steamed rice is an answer."
"Our primary target is Asian countries, particularly Hong Kong and Taiwan," the spokesman said. "Then we will enter the U.S. and Europe."