Now it’s time to take a close look at a small but competitive business making a difference for the Korean economy. Businesses have been developing different ways to preserve and consume food in the safest possible way without losing the taste using different cooking and processing methods. The latest food processing method in the spotlight is freeze-drying. Freeze-drying is a technology that rapidly freezes food to minimize the loss of nutrients and taste. The freeze-dried food market is growing at a rate of over 7% per year. In 2021, the market is expected to amount to $66.5 billion. One Korean company is gaining a lot of attention in this sector. It is SIK (에스아이케이), which creates dishes that taste like home-cooked meals if you just add water. Let's hear more from Mr. Han Jin-wook, deputy director of SIK.

SIK began by taking over a freeze-drying factory in 2008. SIK is the acronym for Special Inspiration of Food Korea. Before freeze-drying, we exported an aloe drink internationally, but now we are focused on the freeze-drying business with our entire company involved in research and development. We are always trying to develop new products with new concepts and that is one of our biggest strengths.

SIK’s aloe drink has received favorable reviews in countries such as the U.S., Iran and Australia, helping the company to win the “5 million dollar export tower" award in 2013. Now, the company's main focus in on freeze-dried foods. The freshness and texture of the ingredients can be felt even after cooking, and freeze-dried foods can be preserved for up to 25 years without using preservatives. Other strengths include the simple cooking process and the fact the products are lightweight. However, freeze-drying requires heavy investment in facilities and processing. In order to overcome these weaknesses, SIK started developing a new type of freeze-dried food and created something special.

In the past, freeze dried foods were mostly flakes or ingredients used for medicine. However, we developed our own technology to freeze dry soup and flakes. We make our own sauces and freeze-dry them, so they do not include any additives. So, our biggest strength is that we can put out the complete product. For our seasoned thistle mixed with rice or gondeurebap (곤드레밥), we bring all the thistle from Gangwon-do Province and process it on our own. That is why our product tastes like something you would eat at a restaurant although it is freeze-dried. All of our vegetables are grown domestically, so you can enjoy the flavors.

The most popular product in the global freeze-dried food market is fruit, followed by vegetables and drinks. Fruits, vegetables, and drinks are relatively easy to process because the raw materials are frozen then changed into powder form. The process cuts down the high cost of freeze drying. However, SIK is focusing on special foods, strategically maximizing the value of their products. By using good quality raw materials, they are creating freeze-dried foods as a finished product that tastes the same as home-made food. In order to create its products, SIK has developed its own vacuum drying method tailored to each product, made its own sauces, and even applied for a patent. The company launched the new product last year.

The first product that we made for the domestic market was a freeze-dried yoghurt snack. It is a chip-like snack simply made from freeze-drying yoghurt. We were the first to make such a snack in Korea. When we think of chips, most are fried like potato chips, but freeze dried foods are healthier because they are not fried in oil. Also, when you freeze-dry yoghurt, the probiotics are kept alive although it is not freshly made yoghurt. In the case of porridge, there are retort products out there but we freeze dried the porridge itself, so when you add water, it becomes like porridge you made at home. This was developed by our company for the first time. The texture is about 90% similar to that of standard porridge, while the taste and smell is similar to fresh cooked homemade porridge.

Yoghurt has been transformed into a bite-sized, chewable, and healthy snack through SIK's freeze-drying technology. By adding various condiments and ingredients such as red pepper paste, kimchi, seasoned meat, and curry to bibimbap, a rice dish with mixed vegetables, SIK has created a healthy freeze-dried meal that travelers and people who enjoy outdoor activities can have anywhere at any time by simply adding hot water. SIK's diverse range of porridge allows consumers to taste home-made, healthy meals which are also gaining a favorable response.

Our products include different types of bibimbap and yoghurt snacks. The yoghurt snacks have been extremely popular in the children's snack market, and bibimbap products have been popular with people who enjoy outdoor activities like camping or people who travel overseas. Our company has been participating in major exhibitions overseas and our goal is to inspire people with good food and create a healthy eating culture, just like our name.

The freeze-dried products made in Korea used to have the strong taste and texture of processed instant food. However, freeze-dried food products from American company "Mountain House" with their 40 years of experience, or Norway's "Real Turmat", have captured the taste buds of consumers around the world with their diverse array of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Another strength that these products have is that they do not lose the taste of the ingredients even after cooking. SIK has been attending international food exhibitions and fairs each year to analyze the latest trends and created a ready-made product which tastes like it is made at home. We look forward to trying the new freeze- dried products that this company will create in the future.