Lotte Food, one of the largest food service companies in the North Asian region and a leading Korean food processor, announced in November 2019 that it has launched a high oleic soybean oil line. The company partnered with a U.S. supplier to import oil from the United States, marking one of the first large scale exports of U.S. high oleic soybean oil to an international market. Lotte notes that high oleic soybean oil has many benefits over conventional products, including higher levels of antioxidants, a neutral taste, long shelf life, and exceptional frying capabilities. While the company’s initial launch is currently limited to foodservice packages (18 liter cans), it plans to launch consumer packages soon.
With an 86.6 percent market share, Korea is U.S. Soy’s largest soybean oil export market and one of the U.S. Soybean Export Council ‘s (USSEC) target markets for high oleic soybean oil exports, so it’s no surprise to see the innovative oil taking root there. Korean soybean oil refiners are convinced of the high quality of U.S. soy oil and, in fact, two of the country’s five major refiners have solely imported U.S. soybean oil since 2018.
The soy checkoff program had an instrumental role in helping to make this a reality. Top leadership from Lotte participated in the Korean Oil CEO program where they met with U.S. exporters hosted by USSEC staff; Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) farmers and staff, including David Howell, a farmer from Middletown, Indiana and Ed Ebert, ISA Senior Director of Grain Production and Utilization; representatives from Purdue University, including Executive Chef Bruce Haumesser; and Corteva leadership, namely, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Operations for Corteva Agriscience Susan Knowlton, at their office for private meetings to discuss the high oleic market. Lotte staff also participated in the Korean Soybean Oil masters program that traveled to the U.S. to meet with stakeholders and exporters. Program support came from the United Soybean Board as well as the Indiana Soybean Alliance.
“I have to admit that I continue to be surprised by this market’s insistence on sustainability and conservation – this is deeply important to them,” says Howell, who hosted the 2018 Korea Soybean Oil Masters team at his farm in June 2019. “If they’re doing business with you, they very much assume that sustainability is a given. It’s good to know that the sustainability of U.S. products and the work that we growers put into conservation practices are so appreciated in Korea.”
View this story from the Korea Economic Daily, “Hankyung.”