|▲ Yongdoe Suk / CEO of Humanwell|
While we are betraying our own food for pizza, spaghetti and hamburgers, the forsaken food of ours made strong presence overseas, creating a K-Food heat wave. Among many a variety of Korea foods, tourists tend to pick up a pack of dried laver as a gift for their beloved. Experts say that there might be two reasons for this: firstly it is tasty and secondly it is a healthy.
For many Koreans, dried laver is a side dish commonly appeared on the table and we put a piece on a spoonful cooked rice to wrap and eat. Sometimes, however, we eat it alone as a snack since it is made like chips. The idea of Yongdoe Suk, CEO of Humanwell, was to make these chips into western-friendly crunch crispy snack which he actually made a hit.
A Korean dried laver is known to have low calorie, helps prevent hardening of arteries, and enhance immunity. According to the Oceans and Fisheries Ministry, South Korea exported $580 million of dried laver last year, topping the No.1 export among marine products. It took over the crown of tuna and some say it is the semiconductor of Korean marine industry. It is notable that all growing and processing of Korean laver is done domestically.
Humanwell is received as the company that set a milestone in the Korean dried laver industry. It started as a red ginseng manufacturer but turned its course to dried laver by adding red ginseng and keto acid. Suk established Humanplus in 2000 with development of South Korea’s first ever red ginseng processor.
The business went smoothly and he soon opened 80 branches nationwide. Dried laver then was a spinoff but it hit the market more than he had expected. Seeing the potential, he took over a processing factory and launched a development of dried laver snacks that can captivate the taste buds of both Koreans and foreigners. Thus introduced were Asak King (crispy king) and dodolri (repeat mark).
What makes these two different from similar products is at their making process: one side of the dried laver is attached with sticky rice and grains – and then combined with two – and then dried and fried. They look similar like common dried laver chips but they are thinner, crispier and richer in flavor.
“I actually targeted foreigners from the very beginning of development. That’s why they are sold more overseas. I focused on preference of each country taste-wise wile share part of the effort in increase of productivity.”
It was the year 2017 that Suk started to export the dried laver products to Canada first and then followed by the US, Russia, China, Australia, Singapore and UK. The number now reached to 15 countries. Suk made $1 million sales within the first year of export and it jumped to $1.7 million the next year. Some of the popular flavors loved by people regardless regions are spicy, wasabi, honey butter and cheese.
“The increase of productivity also resulted in reducing 30 to 40% cost-wise when compared to the existing dried laver snacks in the market. The most distinguished change is that the hand job of pasting the glue is changed to automatic.
Taking the momentum, Suk is ambitiously preparing to release this year ‘Lets Well’ made with 75% brown rice and 25% polished rice. Unlike the former two, ‘Lets Well’ can be a meal of the day. Apart from these flagships, Humanwell offers many a different tastes of dried laver from kimchi to mushroom. All of the products are being exported to 25 countries in the world.
It is encouraging that EzyMart, a local convenient store in Australia that runs 188 stores nationwide, is being in the promotion of Humanwell’s dried laver at the moment. When things go as expected, Suk says, he can expect to achieve $3 million sales in the year 2020.
“If fried potatoes are common snack in the US, and chips in the UK, Humanwell’s dried laver will one day receive as the most frequently enjoyed snack in the world. This is my goal.”
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