Sweet, savory and spicy, Gochujang sauce is a staple in Korean cuisine, says VP sales and marketing Brian Tompkins, who is driving the rollout of a new version of the sauce into the US market under the Chung Jung One brand.
He told FoodNavigator-USA: “We’ve been selling it for a while in tubs in Korean stores in the US, but the new brand – which is in a squeezy red bottle as it more flowable - is targeting a mainstream US audience. The great thing about it is that you can make Korean dishes with it, but it also works perfectly on grilled cheese, ribs, or anything really. A little bit also goes a long way.
“The recipe – which was developed with Edward Lee [a well-known Korean-American chef and 2016 James Beard Finalist] is also slightly different in that we’ve actually gone back to a more traditional Korean recipe using rice rather than wheat, so it’s gluten free, and we don’t used soybeans.”
There’s a lot of interest in fermented foods
He added: “Right now we’re manufacturing it in Korea but if things take off we may look to manufacture it in the US. It feels like just the right time for this brand as interest in hot sauces is so high. There’s also a lot of interest in fermented foods. A lot of foodies really embraced sriracha and now they are saying, what’s next?”
Right now, the sauce [MSRP $3.49-$3.99/7.5oz bottle] has secured shelf space in more than 2,000 retail locations nationwide from Central Market, Jewel, Kroger and Wegmans as well as scores of independent and specialty stores, but is also attracting interest in the foodservice market and from manufacturers, he said.
“A lot of chefs are approaching us and saying where can we get it?”
The condiments set gets more traffic but the Asian set gets more relevant
So where are retailers putting it?
According to Tompkins: “We’ve done experiments in the condiments set by Cholula and hot sauce but generally we do better in the Asian set, which is where retailers usually stock sriracha.
“The condiments set gets more traffic but the Asian set gets more relevant traffic.”
As for competition, he says, CJ Foods has recently been pumping more resources into its bibigo brand in the US, but its Gochujang sauce is more of a ‘Korean-style’ sweet & spicy dipping sauce.
With that said, the fact that more players are entering the space just underscores that Korean foods are trending in US food culture, he said.
“A lot of retailers are expanding their Korean offerings right now and trying to make the products more accessible to a mainstream audience as Korean food becomes more trendy. Retailers are also asking us for help in how to do this.”