Baesangmyun Brewery Co. plans to set up a brewery for Korean rice wine, or makgeolli, in the U.S. as part of its efforts to expand overseas, the drinks maker said Sunday.
The company said it has recently clinched a deal with an entrepreneur based in Chicago to build the facility there and begin producing 50,000 bottles of the traditional Korean beverage a month as early as July. It did not provide information on the value of the contract.
Company officials said they are taking steps to obtain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the initiative.
Under the deal, raw materials, including malted wheat and yeast, will be shipped from Seoul. Baesangmyun also plans to dispatch a brew expert to ensure smooth production.
“The project aims not only to boost supplies to Koreans living in the U.S. but also to get more Americans to try makgeolli,” a company spokesperson said.
Baesangmyun runs six breweries and distilleries in Korea. The Seoul-based firm said it is considering additional plants in other regions of the U.S.
Makgeolli has been enjoying its surging popularity in recent years among international customers chiefly from Japan on the back of its supposed antioxidant, anticancer and other health effects.
Its exports hit a record high of $52.8 million last year, nearly 92 percent of which were to Japan, according to the Korea Customs Service. The sum reflects a 176 percent on-year jump from 2010 and a 12-fold increase from 2008.
Albeit relatively small, outbound shipments to the U.S. grew more than nine-fold to about $1.9 million in 2011 from 2008, the agency reported.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)