CJ Group President Lee Kwan-hoon speaks during a news conference at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, Wednesday. / Courtesy of CJ
By Park Si-soo
LOS ANGELES ― Korean food and media giant CJ Group unveiled its ambitious goal on Wednesday to earn 15 trillion won ($13.4 billion) in sales from its food business unit by 2020 with half of the projected sum expected to be generated from overseas markets.
To that end, the company will vigorously pursue the opening of "Bibigo"-branded Korean food restaurants worldwide and boost sales of processed food through the partnership with global retailers such as Wal-Mart, Costco and Tesco. The firm is expected to post 500 billion won in overseas sales of food products this year.
"Korea's cultural wave (hallyu) is shaking the globe wildly. We are going to take advantage of this to make Korean food a loved international food," said CJ Group President Lee Kwan-hoon during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles under the slogan, "2013 Global CJ 2020 Great CJ." "CJ has promoted hallyu around the world with music, film and other pop culture contents. We are going to add Korean food to the lineup."
Lee emphasized the importance of the U.S. market in the globalization scheme, saying America is a "gateway" to the global market.
"If we succeed in the U.S., it means we have a high chance of repeating the success in Europe and Latin America," he said. The president added the firm will come up with tailored strategies to bolster its presence in China, Japan and Southeast Asian countries.
With processed food sales outdoing its restaurant business, the company expects processed dumplings to play a crucial role in promoting its products in the U.S.
"Generally speaking, Korean food is still largely unknown to U.S. citizens. But they know dumplings because this is a type of food existing in many Asian countries, including China and Japan. We will take advantage of the familiarity in promoting Korean food," said Han Soo, a CJ director familiar with the U.S. business.
It is in recognition of the fact that processed dumplings are CJ's best-selling item here. The company expects dumpling sales in the U.S. to reach 80 billion won by the end of the year, exceeding the product's sales prospect in the domestic market for the first time. The figure is expected to grow to 500 billion won by 2020, Han said.
To meet the growing demand, CJ is building its third U.S.-based dumpling-making factory in Fullerton, California. It will be completed by the end of the year, making it possible for the firm to annually produce up to 9,000 tons of dumplings in the U.S.
In September last year, the group's food and restaurant business arm CJ Foodville formed a partnership with China's real-estate developer SOHO China to facilitate its food business in the world's most populous country. Under the partnership, CJ is given top priority in space in buildings and shopping malls owned by the Chinese developer.
Foodville owns several leading restaurant brands such as Bibigo casual dining restaurant VIP's family restaurant, Tous les Jours bakery and A Twosome Place cafe.
SOHO China, co-owned by its founder Pan Shiy and his wife Zhang Xin, has built or owns commercial buildings with a total gross floor area of more than 1.75 million square meters.
Under the partnership, Foodville opened the first "CJ Foodworld," a complex of CJ's four food brands ― Bibigo, VIPs, Tous les Jours and A Twosome Place ― in Lido, an affluent district in downtown Beijing, in September.
Tous les Jours made its debut in the United States in 2004 and China in 2005 and Vietnam in 2007. The bakery brand has posted double-digit growth in China and Vietnam.
Bibigo restaurant specializing in Korea's signature dish "bibimbap" runs 14 outlets in six countries ― the U.S., Britain, Singapore, China, Indonesia and Japan. There are three Bibigo restaurants in Los Angeles. Foodville aims to run more than 7,000 outlets of its four brands by 2020.