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CJ CheilJedang's instant rice sets sales record on overseas demand

Feb. 26, 2024 - 17:56 By Hwang Joo-young
CJ CheilJedang's flagship cooked white rice product (CJ CheilJedang)

South Korean food giant CJ CheilJedang's cooked rice product line, Hetbahn, achieved record-breaking annual sales of 850.3 billion won ($639 million) in 2023, significantly contributing to the growth in global sales, the firm announced Monday.

Based on the firm's report, Hetbahn’s overseas sales last year surged by 21 percent and domestic sales grew by 1.4 percent compared to 2022. In the fourth quarter of 2023 alone, total sales increased by 9 percent on-year.

Last year, Hetbahn products were exported to over 40 countries, including the US, Mexico, Australia and China. In the US alone, its flagship offering, Cooked White Rice, witnessed a 25 percent increase in sales compared to the previous year, largely driven by sales through retail giants like Costco, the company analyzed.

CJ CheilJedang attributed the growth in global sales to the competitiveness of its instant rice brand compared to other global rivals, appealing to foreign consumers with its own quality taste.

On the domestic front, Hetbahn experienced a drastic surge in sales from online consumers last year by broadening distribution across various sales channels and e-commerce platforms in Korea. When comparing domestic online purchases, the company recorded a 17 percent year-on-year increase in the fourth quarter of last year alone.

CJ CheilJedang sold 39.1 billion won worth of Hetbahn products on the e-commerce platform Naver in 2023, marking approximately three times more sales than the previous year. In addition, its debut on Kurly, another grocery delivery e-commerce platform, saw its cumulative sales surpassing 67,000 units as of December last year since its initial launch on the platform in July.

CJ CheilJedang's independent online mall, CJ The Market, also experienced a significant increase in sales. Last year, sales of Hetbahn through the platform totaled 23.8 billion won, marking a 79 percent on-year increase.

Hetbahn gained significant dominance over other processed rice product brands in the domestic offline market last year, commanding 68 percent of the total share, according to market tracker Nielsen Korea. Among the Hetbahn product lines, the flagship offering Cooked White Rice claimed the largest share.

Meanwhile, CJ CheilJedang has been emphasizing Hetbahn products themed around "wellness" in recent years, catering to the growing consumer trend towards healthier food options.

For instance, konjac-based Hetbahn products, first introduced in 2022, have gradually gained popularity for combining the chewy texture of low-calorie konjac with local Cheonjihyang rice.

CJ CheilJedang said it plans to enhance its lineup of products in the wellness category this year. For instance, new products such as those that include ingredients like black rice and black beans, and multi-grain rice products are set to launch, targeting consumer demand for more diverse and nutritious options.

"We've successfully navigated the challenges posed by the competitive rice product market by leveraging Hetbahn's product competitiveness," said an official from CJ CheilJedang. "We will continue to introduce a diverse range of products that prioritize excellent taste and quality to match the evolving needs of consumers."