▲ Samdasoo water comes from deep within Jeju, but is being distributed beyond the island. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Development Corp.
On a Korean Air flight home to Canada, I began to open the bottled water on my meal tray and was a little surprised to see the word Jeju. Sure enough my water was bottled in Jeju. Instead of drinking it, I took my Jeju water all the way home to Canada and showed my parents that Jeju isn't all tourism and English teachers.
Perhaps Jeju's most famous product brand, Samdasoo is a water bottling company owned by Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Development Corp. and has ambitions to increase its brand value and market internationally. The island of Jeju is very fortunate to have large reserves of freshwater located in deep underground volcanic aquifers. This water source has been utilized on a commercial basis now since the 1990s. The unique volcanic reservoirs are similar to some found in Hawaii, and act as giant underground water bottles, being replenished by rain water that filters down through many layers of volcanic soil and stone.
It is estimated that the water reserves under Jeju exceed 70 billion tons, and with annual rainfall of about 1,975mm (Jeju receives the most rainfall in all Korea) and 46% of this rainwater is estimated to permeate underground. Due to the stone formations, the fresh water remains separate from the seawater.
The local government established its Jeju Provincial Development Corporation to enable the production and sale of the water in 1994, and by 1998 the facilities were finished and production and sales began. The name Samdasoo was chosen as the brand of water. “Sam” means three in Korean and this recognizes the three famous traits of Jeju; its women, stone and wind.
Recognition was granted from the US Food and Drug Administration that Jeju's Samdasoo brand water met or exceeded health and safety standards, and was also recognized by Japan's Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare. This set the stage for Samdasoo's endeavors to sell its product internationally, in addition to a large domestic market. Samdasoo water has now successfully ventured into the Chinese market and will enter the Japanese and Hong Kong markets as early as 2009. A marketing office has been established in the United States and export sales are expected to begin.
▲ The Samdasoo bottling plant in Seogwipo is ramping up production to meet the growing demand for the underground water, which has passed stringent USDA tests for purity. Photos courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Development Corp.
The annual export market will gradually increase from the current 5,000 tons to 20,000 tons in 2009, and to 50,000 tons in 2010. With this increase in export sales it is expected that net income will also increase to $19 million USD in 2009 and to $23 million USD in 2010. Samdasoo also has aggressive sights on the domestic market, shooting for 50 percent of the domestic bottles water market from its current 30 percent share.
It has also diversified its product lines to include mandarin orange juice and even bottled green tea, with both ingredients originating from Jeju, and of course, using premium Samdasoo spring water. Recently there has been interest in utilizing another water source lying under Jeju, underground seawater. Deep seawater is a relatively new trend in the beverage industry mainly used in the Japanese and U. S. market. The underground seawater in Jeju is a potentially easier, cheaper and healthier alternative.
This form of seawater is reportedly beneficial from the contents of salt, and trace contents of vanadium, and selenium. Vanadium is beneficial for diabetics, germanium for blood circulation and selenium has anti-cancer properties and in managing cholesterol. The seawater also has marketable uses in foods and cosmetics.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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