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Food innovation was the focus of the 3rd Annual Asia Food Forum and the Korea Food Industry Association this past week in Seoul, Korea. International speakers spoke on such diverse innovation topics as:

  • Trends in Food Industry
  • Key Drivers for consumers in the Food and Beverage Industry
  • Innovation in Food Traceability Systems
  • Emerging Food Processing Technology in Developing Functional Foods
  • Food Marketing Innovation

I had the privilege of speaking on the "Top 10 Business Innovation Opportunities in Franchise Restaurants."

Korean Government endorsement and support

First and foremost, I was impressed by the hospitality of the show sponsors and their commitment to professionalism to the nth degree. Second, I was awed with the strong governmental support for the food industry and the media coverage that seemed to include 20 Asian journalists with flashing cameras. A fellow speaker was the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rt. Hon. Dame Jenny Shipley, who spoke on 2013 Trends in the Food Industry. She was also accompanied by New Zealand's Ambassador Patrick Rata. But not to be overshadowed, the United States was well represented by our own Ambassador, Sung Y. Kim, and by our USA Embassy Director of Agricultural Trade Office. Other Korean food industry officials included executives from the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation, Food Industry Policy Division, and Director General of Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the President of the Korean Dietetic Association.

Korean food industry support

I was amazed at the food industry executive support that included the Chairman, President and/or CEOs of over a dozen of the largest food companies in Korea and the Pacific/Asia area. Not only did they attend the show, but they participated in luncheons and dinners held by the Korean Food Industry Association. Upon meeting these corporate executives, I had no doubt concerning their commitment to grow the food industry in Korea and Asia in general. 2012 represented a key growth year for the Korean food industry, and played a significant role in their country's economic growth. And they envision that the food industry will play a significant role in the future economic development of their country.

The Korean food executives consider innovation as the key to future growth, and seem to understand more than U.S.-based food company executives that the food industry is an internationally competitive marketplace — and a matter for economical survival for their country. Of course, having China and Asia populations as a high growth neighbors doesn't hurt their marketing potential.

A walk around Seoul's restaurant landscape

I decided to spend an extra day in Seoul to tour the emerging new restaurant concepts, and visit the old traditional marketplaces. One of the major trends is restaurant franchisee growth — of U.S. branded knockoffs. For example, I counted 12 coffee shops that patterned their stores after Starbucks — which makes it increasingly tough for U.S. brands to expand internationally. But in my presentation, I urged restaurant executives to avoid the copy cat mentality and develop new and better restaurant concepts that are driven by innovation principles. This concept is called "Reverse Innovation," and it represents the trend of the future in a global economy as currently demonstrated by General Electric in developing countries.

As a footnote, I accepted a similar food innovation speaking engagement this past week in Bangkok, Thailand, titled "Food Retail Forecasting and Innovation," Sept. 11-12, 2013. I look forward to seeing you there — as food innovation gains momentum around the world. Please contact me if I can be of assistance to developing a new product innovation culture in your company

Food Technical Consulting (www.foodbevbiz.com) is sponsoring its next industry workshop titled "How to Start & Maintain a Food Truck Business" in Denver, June 24 – 26, 2013. Please contact us at dsuderman@foodbevbiz.com or 303-471-1443.

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Darrel Suderman
Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., is president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute. He has held senior R&D/QA leadership positions at KFC, Boston Market, Church's Chicken and Quiznos and led KFC’s development team of “Popcorn Chicken”, now a $1B international product –invented by Gene Gagliardi.
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