Good ingredients make good food. It may seem obvious, but good materials may not be available at a reasonable price due to natural disasters, climate, or various factors. Because of this, producers make compromises with reality appropriately according to the situation, and because it is not easy for consumers to confirm this, even good products are viewed with suspicion at first. Chilkab Nongsan has built up trust over decades, allowing consumers to trust and buy products just by looking at its name and brand. The company has grown through development, innovation, and keeping promises to consumers, and has written a living history of domestic rice processed foods. Monthly PowerKorea met CEO Youngju Lee.
Chilkab Nongsan is a place where healthy food for family is made
50 years of expertise in rice processing foods
Chilkab Nongsan, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, is a food brand that has built up consumer trust with products made only from good ingredients with the belief of ‘producing healthy food for me and my family’. As a pioneer in the rice processing industry in Korea, Chairman Neunggu Lee established an agricultural product processing plant in the 1980s before establishing the company, and has contributed greatly to the development of the rice agricultural product processing industry for more than 50 years. He pioneered a nationwide distribution of rice cakes, which had previously been produced in village mills and distributed only to nearby residents.
Chairman Lee made a lot of effort to distribute healthy food and achieved many results. He increased the shelf life of processed rice food to more than one month without chemical additives by using the alcohol immersion method using sterilized alcohol. He also extended the shelf life of naengmyeon by three months and dry noodles by one year. The company still is producing and supplying fresh products with significantly extended shelf life without using preservatives through its own sterilization method through alcohol treatment and supplying them to the market.
He was also awarded the Coal Industry Medal in 1990 in recognition of his contribution to organizing the first rice processing association in Korea and turning 18 million units of surplus rice from the government, which was unable to cook for more than two years, into processed food, thereby depleting the government’s stock.
Continuous growth through healthy food, high quality, and trust with consumers
Chilkab Nongsan has grown into a medium-sized company that currently produces about 400 products and records more than 82 billion won in annual sales. CEO Youngju Lee follows Chairman Lee’s philosophy of putting consumer trust first. In particular, he is securing a thicker fixed consumer base by adding excellent product planning skills and product development tailored to customer needs. Lee says “Our products are gaining more and more loyal customers through word-of-mouth, not through marketing strategies such as TV advertisements, but through trust formed as high-quality products at good prices.” All products are produced through HACCP-certified production processes and do not use any chemicals such as preservatives. In addition, the paper used to pack the product uses natural pulp, so that the product arrives safely until the moment the consumer receives the product. The company never does OEM/ODM production, and produces all products directly, and in the case of some processed agricultural products, it directly farms to supply healthy raw materials.
Captivating the taste of customers with over 400 products produced directly
Challenging big brands with a variety of products targeting single-person households and young people
Chairman Lee and CEO Lee did not simply make healthy and delicious processed rice products, but devoted their energy and sincerity to developing various foods, and thanks to this, various products that are currently loved by consumers have been created. More than 400 products produced by the company are all sold at large shopping malls and convenience stores, and are also used in famous hotels and restaurants. Buckwheat noodles, the most representative product, have been the most loved by consumers for decades. First-class wheat flour is used to improve the quality of the product, and buckwheat flour and black rice flour are mixed to make the noodles softer and chewier. It is a signature product that is being exported to countries all over the world. Rice noodles are made through a long aging process with sufficient moisture content, so the savory and chewy taste is excellent. The company developed its own manufacturing equipment to produce rice noodles, and the rice flour content is about 30% to 45%, and it is steadily loved even after 20 years of its release.
Resilient and chewy noodles with natural drying method, establishing itself as the best noodle company
The company uses the traditional method of making noodles and directly dries them in the sun, and has the largest natural drying facility in Korea. In general, noodles mass-produced in factories use hot air drying in which hot heat is artificially applied to dry the noodles. However, the moisture evaporates quickly, causing fine holes in the noodles, which can easily break or lose elasticity. On the other hand, in Chilkap Nongsan’s natural drying method, the inside and outside are dried slowly, so the density of the noodles is very high. Therefore, when a lot of raw materials are used and noodles are boiled, elasticity and chewy texture are excellent. The company also acquired HACCP certification for naturally dried noodles for the first time in Korea. CEO Lee says “We are the only one producing all noodles domestically. Because it is a natural drying method, it is possible to produce wangmeon, the traditional noodles of the Honam region, and Nonghyup is currently conducting a collection of Paldo noodles.”
Popular among the MZ generation with various HMR products such as scorched seolleongtang, sticky rice cake soup, and perilla sesame sujebi
To be the spearhead of K-Food expanding to the world
Under the leadership of CEO Lee, the company is constantly developing new products that meet the latest trends. In addition to potato sujebi packaged for one person, Nurungji seolleongtang, rice cake soup with rice cake soup, bibim jjolmyeon, and perilla sesame sujebi HMR products have been developed and are loved by consumers. The company is introducing a variety of products targeting the younger generation who prefer convenience and instant cooking, such as various ready-to-eat foods and convenience meals. Exports are also gaining momentum. Currently, a shelf exclusively for Chilkap Nongsan has been installed in ‘H mart’ in the US, and sales are rapidly increasing in Australia and New Zealand this year. CEO Lee says “We plan to focus on developing products that customers need, and also focus on developing sauce and seasoning products. Through this, we want to spread the true taste of K-Food overseas.”
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