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[Interview with Member Companies at the Food Venture Center] Bio Kogen Co. Balhyo Yes and Green Road

[Interview with Member Companies at the Food Venture Center]

Bio Kogen Co. Balhyo Yes and Green Road




Are you having trouble in finding workforce and sales root even when you have a competitive idea? Do you want to validate your idea for food business feasibility objectively through reliable research? Now come and meet the Food Venture Center of the Korea National Food Cluster!

The Korea National Food Cluster is providing competent environments for product sales, from materials sourcing to sales channel exploration at the Food Venture Center for candidate CEO of food businesses who are considering starting his/her own business and SMEs. It is a place where you can get one-stop services for everything you need to grow venture business, from business space, the latest R&D facilities and expert consulting.

As the No. of member companies is growing, the success cases of new venture firms is accumulating, generating significant research outcomes or going for the actual mass production. Here we meet with 3 member companies advancing their ways in each field with brilliant ideas.


■ Bio Kogen Co. specialized at vegetable lactobacillus



Hello, It is a pleasure meeting you. Please introduce Bio Kogen Co.

Bio Kogen Co. is a company specialized at vegetable lactobacillus. It is developing 100% vegetable yogurt with plant-based milk, not cow milk, fermented with vegetable lactobacillus. Prototype production and sales launch are scheduled for Q4 this year and the company is planning to expand the business scope into diverse areas, based on vegetable lactobacillus.

How did you come to enter the Food Venture Center of the Korea National Food Cluster?

We are a start-up, starting at POSTECH and since then, we stayed at the university in Pohang until May this year. Since Pohang is a city of steel production, there are not many bio and food ventures, located in the city and support and interest in food industry were relatively weak. Also due to geographical restrictions, it was not easy to find workforces in the field. So we decided to move to other location and while searching for candidate locations for venture companies like us, we happened to see the notification of the Korea National Food Cluster to recruit member companies.We visited the site to see the services and facilities of the Korea National Food Cluster in person. It was very impressive as all the staff at the support center was so passionate in guiding us through the support facilities. Also impressed by the extensive support infrastructure, we began to pack up and move over to the cluster. Finally in last June HQ and research center were moved and currently we are building a pilot system for manufacturing and working on the procedures to acquire food manufacturing and processing business license.

What was the biggest difficulty you were faced with in developing business with the idea to start you own start-up?

Since we first started at a university lab, we have strong R&D base but did not have much business experiences. Also it was not easy to find competent talents as we were just a new born start-up. Fortunately, after joining the Korea National Food Cluster, talent recruitment issue was naturally cleared. We learned that the talents pool here was so large, almost incomparable to the previous location and was able to recruit so many competent talents. We are as satisfied as we can see that R&D and business development is accelerating thanks to the new members joining the company this time.




What are the direct and indirect benefits you can get after moving into the Food Venture Center?

We get a lot of help for processing license acquisition for food manufacturing and sales. It is also huge benefits that we can get help from each support center for R&D. As the support centers of the cluster take full care of member companies, we can focus on product commercialization without difficulties. Also working together with people and companies in the same industry gives us motivation to work harder.

If there is any project you are working on, together with the Korea National Food Cluster or Technology Support Center, can you introduce?

We are developing product package, getting help from the consulting from Corporate Challenge Program. It is very helpful as we can get practical advices from experts in the field. Most of all, people at the packaging center are so professional and helped us a lot in building specific business cases with original ideas.




Please give some tips for those preparing to launch a start-up in food industry.

I believe it is essential to keep asking questions about the very nature of the business you want to build. Instead of just thinking how to make money, you should find an answer to the question why you want to do the business. Whether it is food or medicine, all businesses start and end with customers. Define and find your customers clearly and staying focused on customer segment while you run the business.

Lastly I would like to quote Kevin Systrom, a co-founder of Instagram, “I learned later that running a start-up means 50% product development and 50% of so many other things.” It really is. The speed of business development is in fact dependent on how you can handle the remaining 50% other things.


■ Balhyo Yes, a Company Specialized at Beverage Fermented with Lactic Acid Bacteria



Hello, Nice meeting you. Can you briefly introduce the company?

Balhyo Yes is a company that is developing good quality fermented drink with fruit, vegetable and lactic acid bacteria. Generally, drink products contain high percentage of sugar, even if they are made of 100% fruits or vegetable. We studied how to maximize the benefits of fruits and vegetable, while reducing sugar and came to conduct R&D on lactic acid bacteria. Fermented drinks, developed by Balhyo Yes have competitiveness as they are all made through the process of 100% pure fermentation, not following general method of adding fermented extract into the drink.

Can you tell us about core business of Balhyo Yes. Please introduce the key products and primary business direction.

‘Apple U’, the main product of Balhyo Yes is a natural fermentation product, made of the juice extract of apple, beet and lemon, 100% fermented with lactic acid bacteria. It is a premium product to enjoy the freshness as if it is just made at home. It has great appealing point to consumers as it keeps nutrients of frits and vegetable intact with low temperature sterilization. Different from other drinks rich with fruit sugar, products of Balhyo Yes has lower calorie through fermentation, using lactic acid bacteria.



▲ Balhyo Yes Premium Product, ‘Apple U’


From materials source to sales channels, Balhyo Yes is seeking ways to link our products to local specialties. In Jangsu well known for apple production, we focus on distributing ‘Apple U’ through local sales stores in Jeollabuk-do. In Jinan well known for pear production, we distribute red ginseng & pear drink. If we make products, using special ingredients from the region and sell the product in the region, we believe we could build our own corporate story. For the premium product, prototype production will start around October when new package development is over. After promotion of sales of the premium product, we are planning to expand distribution network with non-heating sterilized products.

What are the benefits you can see after entering the Food Venture Center at the Korea National Food Cluster?

Professional staff and production facilities at the support center were impressive. Different from general food, fermented food needs to be handled by experts from production to distribution. For each stage,, extensive R&D is required and after entering the Food Venture Center, it was great as we could use R&D facilities whenever we needed. Especially, when it grew into the stage of prototype production, going beyond initial product development with small-scale devices, we could get support from the infrastructure of the cluster. We realized this time, after entering the Food Venture Center, how wonderful it is to conduct all production process with one-stop service in single location.




What is the project you are working on, together with the Korea National Food Cluster?

As part of the benefits for member companies, we were selected for the Venture Technology Challenge Program of the Food Functionality Support Center and currently are working on the project to develop byproducts reprocessing technology after juice extraction. When you make juice with fruits or vegetable, you end up with many byproducts, including peels and residue. We are studying how to reprocess the peels, using fungus. It is a meaningful project as it is to develop methods to add value on the residue left over, not throwing them away. Also, we are planning to get help from the Technology Challenge Consulting. With support of premium product packaging and image consulting, we are going to renew the production design around October.



▲ Park Jong-hyeok, CEO of Balhyo Yes and the Premium Product, ‘Apple U’


Please give some tips for those preparing to launch a start-up in food industry.

To run a food business, it is important to build full package strategies from application of the Food Sanitation Act to production process and sales. That is why it is especially important to get professional devices or expert advices. The Korea National Food Cluster was the place where you can actually turn the idea you simulated into reality. From diverse support center, you can get the technological help you need for each stage of business development. I hope you can find ways to realize your dream, too, by actively seeking opportunities from diverse helps of the cluster, including ‘Start-up Support Lab Program’ currently going on.


■ Green Road, a Company Producing No Caffeine Horse Bean Drink, as an Alternative to Replacement of Coffee




Hello, Nice meeting you. Please introduce yourself.

I am Kim Ji-yong, head of Green Road, a company producing alternative drink to coffee, using horse beans. I am running 1-man business, taking care of development of the entire process from main product ‘King Bean Caferino’ development to sale channel exploration.

Can you tell us how you came to develop specific business with your start-up idea?

As I wanted to become a farmer, I took the college entrance exam belatedly and entered Korea National College of Agriculture and Fisheries. While studying at the college, I prepared to start an agri-food business and won several awards at business idea competitions. While studying at the college, I came to develop the business idea, using Korean horse bean and to turn the idea into substantial business case, I conducted several researches and market surveys to make thorough preparation. When I roasted horse beans, it developed the gentle flavor unique to grains, creating similar flavor with coffee. I took the beans to the lab for component analysis but horse beans did not develop caffeine even after being roasted and made into drink. So I had confidence that I would be able to develop an alternative drink to coffee, using Korean horse beans and started Greed Road.



▲ Choose and roast hose beans, bigger than general coffee beans to develop business item


How did you come to decide to enter the Food Venture Center of the Korea National Food Cluster?

When I searched for processing vendors to develop prototype, I faced with big hurdles. Many coffee processing vendors rejected the request, saying processing horse beans may leave the flavor of the beans. I even searched for factory site, thinking I had no choice but to build a factor and process by myself. But it was not easy. While trying to find any possible way, I happened to see the notification to recruit members for the Food Venture Center of the cluster. As it said those preparing to start business were also eligible, I thought ‘This is it!’ That was the last day of the recruitment deadline and I had to hurry up to fill out and submit the application. Fortunately it got admitted and I was able to get all the benefits from business space to technology support. Currently, I am doing interior work to prepare production.

Tell us about the project you are currently working on with the Technology Support Center.

With support of the Food Functionality Evaluation Support Center, I am working on component analysis of horse beans. When you roast horse beans, it generates many good substances than persimmon calyx. With systematic component analysis, I believe I can use it as strong marketing point for ‘King Bean Caferino.’



▲ “King Bean Caferino’ decaffeinated coffee alternative drink, made of horse beans


What are the benefits you feel directly and indirectly after entering the Food Venture Center?

It has such great equipment and infrastructure. Other than the Functionality Evaluation Support Center I am working with, packaging machine or processing devices at the Pilot Plant Center will be a great help in new product development. I couldn’t wait to see.



▲ Kim Ji-yong, CEO of Green Road


Tell us about the future business direction of Green Road.

The main product ‘King Bean Caferino’ was developed and specified over a long time when I was a college student. It is almost nearing the stage of mass production but still, as a one-man business, exploring sales channels is the biggest issue. Instead of the red ocean of coffee alternative drinks, I would like to target the consumers who had experiences of having horse bean drink. I would like to introduce ‘new type of drink made of horse beans’ to as many consumers as possible.

In foreign countries, ‘Orzo’ made of roasted barley is popular as a new alternative to coffee. In the sampling test conducted by Green Road, many respondents said our product tasted better than Orzo. I heard the Food Quality and Safety Center at the Korea National Food Cluster has the most advanced facilities to objectively assess preference to diverse taste. I hope I can develop unique strength of our product, differentiated from other products, in the process of analyzing the taste and flavor.

Please give some tips for those preparing to launch a start-up in food industry.

Agri-food industry is an attractive business area. It is an industry with high ROI. There are so many materials with which you can develop high value-added products at lower cost. However, in most cases, when you say you are going to start a business in agri-food processing, you target existing market with high entrance barrier, such as platycodon root extract. Seeking your own way of creating value in the sector with lower entrance barrier is also very meaningful. Of course, starting business is not easy. It is not easy to raise fund or seek help from relevant agri-food institutions. However, even with these difficulties, you can still find greater chances, by taking advantage of the programs for the start-up candidates, just like those provided by the Korea National Food Cluster. If you have a great idea, now it is the time to make it work and develop into a product of your own.

Bio Kogen Co. Balhyo Yes and Green Road, the companies to build business cases with their own ideas! What they have in common is they developed differentiated food ingredient or research idea and then went ahead with to start business with confidence.

Especially, the decision to enter the Food Venture Center at the Korean National Food Cluster to take advantage of its infrastructure for each stage from R&D to distribution and sales, that is another key point of their success. If you are considering starting your own business in food industry, do not hesitate to come and meet the Korea National Food Cluster!

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