▲ Golden Woodo CEO Kang Chang Yoon and marketing manager Ko A Rum talk peanuts at their office near Jeju National University in Jeju City. Photo by The Jeju Weekly
Golden Woodo CEO Kang Chang Yoon’s story is Jeju’s Jack and the Beanstalk.
“At first, people thought I was crazy,” Kang said about how others reacted to his business idea. And Kang’s magic beans? Peanuts of course, though not any ordinary variety, but ones infused with gold.
Their reaction to Kang’s idea was understandable. “How can you make a golden peanut,” said Golden Woodo Marketing Manager Ko A Rum as the reason people mocked Kang’s vision.
Kang came up with the idea roughly three years ago after reading a newspaper article about golden rice. Not long after an array of products began to find real estate on luxury grocery store shelves like dried persimmons and makgeolli (a cloudy rice wine) either laced, covered, or biologically instilled with the metal.
Next, Kang got on the phone with these companies to exchange information and to inquire about the business, even visiting a few to gain a firsthand understanding of how these products work. He decided on giving the Midas touch to peanuts because they were economical to grow and because of the branding possibilities.
“You could do mandarins and tangerines but peanuts are easy to preserve, transfer, and you could actually make money from it,” said Kang.
The farming practice is similar to that of any crop. Kang said they plant regular peanut seeds in May to be harvested in November, but the one difference is the plants are fed a gold-water solution. Produced by SHINEMETAL, a nano technology company, which has been contracted to manufacture the solution, the gold water is administered three times.
SHINEMETAL President Dr. Yoon Eui-Sik said, through their patented technology they are able to extract nano particles (particles sized between 100 and 1 nanometers) from a gold bar which are then mixed with a water solvent that can “be absorbed into the plant through the root.”
▲ Photos courtesy Golden Woodo
Based on research by the Cooperative Center for Research Facilities at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, Golden Woodo’s first harvest had .023 milligrams of gold per kilo, which was topped by this year’s reading of 2.09 milligrams per kilo. For comparison, the average human body of 70 kilograms naturally contains 0.2 milligrams of gold.
“The reason why we put the gold in it out of all the metals, gold is the only nontoxic material and when it goes into the body it works as a catalyst so it helps other stuff to be absorbed faster and its anti-aging and it increases peoples’ I.Q.,” Ko said.
Gold is considered an inert material meaning that once ingested it passes through the body without entering the bloodstream.
This combination of ideas, luxury and potential health benefits, from being “golden” is a branding strategy Kang expects to do well in Korea. “The primary reason [to buy Golden Woodo] would be health reasons because Korean people love eating healthy foods,” said Kang who continued that the gold within the nut actually makes it taste better. “It’s taste was better than the non-golden regular peanut. There are golden peaches and according to a lab test, golden peaches are a lot sweeter than regular peaches.”
Due to the cost — at 12,000 won for 180 grams — and to create a luxury brand image, Golden Woodo is currently only being sold at Hyundai Department stores on the mainland as well as being exported to Japan. Kang said that one of the problems they have is there has been a lot of demand from other department stores and duty free shops. He added that even if they were to cultivate all of Udo island, they wouldn’t be able to meet all the requests.
“I had sent [into the Chinese market] some samples and they are demanding a large amount of it, like tons and tons of it which we don’t have. So that’s why we’re focusing on chocolate,” Kang said.
Only one year into production and Golden Woodo has had to alter its direction. To keep up with the demand, instead of selling deshelled peanuts Kang intends to sell chocolate cooked with them. To help facilitate this and to improve the company’s brand awareness and image, Kang is hoping to build a golden peanut chocolate factory on Udo. The all-glass building, doubling as a tourist attraction, will allow people traveling to the islet to watch the cooking process.
Ninety percent of this year’s crop, harvested between mid-October and late November, will be saved for the creation of other products like the chocolate, ice cream, and cookies.
Because it is a young company, Kang said that it is still in its trial period and that he is not “dying to make a profit” yet. In this period of experimentation, Kang’s magic beans could be sprouting into a wide array of products soon.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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