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Schwan’s to keep local flavors to serve the global market Since acquiring U.S. frozen food giant Schwan’s Company in 2019, CJ CheilJedang has been transforming the food market landscape in the U.S. The merger of the two big industry players has been driving an even faster expansion of CJ CheilJedang in the global market ever since, as evidenced by its impressive 64% sales hike over just two years — from 3.1 trillion KRW (2.3 billion USD) in 2019 to 5.2 trillion KRW (3.9 billion USD) in 2022. To learn more about the company’s current and future industry plans, CJ Newsroom sat down with Brad Smith, Vice President of Marketing, and Daniel Hegg, Senior Manager of Mandu for the GSP Team. Brad Smith, Vice President of Marketing (left) and Daniel Hegg, Senior Manager at GSP Team Merging Korean and American Food Innovation Q. Could you explain what the Global Strategic Products (GSPs) are and their role in leading business expansion in the U.S. market? Hegg: The GSPs consist of seven Korean food products from bibigo: mandu, cooked rice, chicken, Korean sauces, kimchi, dried seaweed (gim) and rolls. These products have been designed to target and drive the expansion of global markets. There are three ways the GSPs play a role in the U.S. directly. The first is long-term strategic planning and execution at the enterprise levels for our product categories in North America. The second is straight enterprise-level business fundamentals, which means monitoring how products like mandu are faring across the entire enterprise. The third is something I call “priority projects,” and these are projects that relate to products within our portfolio which can identify potentially valuable business areas for us. Q. How did the merger between CJ CheilJedang and Schwan’s Company help contribute to bibigo’s growth in the U.S.? Hegg: In 2019, when the two companies merged, bibigo was primarily a club business in the U.S., which means it was a brand that was only sold to warehouse merchants such as Costco and Sam’s Club. We took the bibigo products and fused them into our distribution network by leveraging our direct store delivery (DSD) capabilities. As a result, we achieved $170 million growth year-over-year between 2019 to 2022. Food for Thought: CJ and Schwan’s Leading Expertise Q. Before the merger, CJ and Schwan’s were both industry leaders in their respective markets. Now that the companies have joined hands, what do you think are the competitive advantages of Schwan’s Company? Smith: Our competitive advantage is driven by two things: our ONLYONE product assortment and our marketing capabilities. Our company’s ONLYONE product philosophy is to be “First, Best and Different,” and we strive for this in all our product categories. Second, our marketing capabilities have helped us build some terrific brands over many years. Hegg: To me, bibigo is very unique because it has Korean DNA incorporated into the products and brand itself. bibigo products are high quality, aesthetically pleasing and have an element of care that really makes the brand stand out from the competition. Q. You both had an opportunity to attend the Global Staffers Event for Schwan’s Company employees in Seoul, Korea this past November. Could you share the benefits of this event and any takeaways from the experience? Smith: This year, the experience was amplified, as we invited our Global Strategic Category (GSC) partners to participate in this year’s event. Attending the event in person gave us the chance to connect and bond with our colleagues to develop sound strategies that will allow us to achieve our goals. Hegg: It was such a great and meaningful experience. It was really inspiring to be able to meet both our senior leaders and collaborate and network with some other global colleagues at the event. Q. Going forward, what do you envision for the future of bibigo and Schwan’s Company? Smith: While food businesses are predominantly local, bibigo is attempting a rarely achieved feat of becoming a truly global food brand. Under CJ’s leadership, we’ll be positioned to become the No. 1 food company in the world. Hegg: bibigo is our key to becoming a dominant player in North America’s ethnic food market. I’m very eager to see where bibigo is going to be next year and even five years from now. It’s going to be exciting to watch it all unfold.
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