For example, it is exploring how ginseng could work with other ingredients synergistically for condition-specific health needs.
KGC is best-known for its flagship brand Cheong Kwan Jang. It also has other brands including Good Base, deer antlers supplement Cheon Nok, supplement brand α Project, and even runs a red ginseng lifestyle café known as Sapoon Sapoon in South Korea.
In the US, ginseng is traditionally consumed by the Asian population and the company, which entered the US market in 2008, had embarked on a three-year innovation project in 2017 in hopes of expanding its consumer base.
“Traditionally, the consumers of ginseng have been the Asian populations. However, over the last few years, that has changed a bit, because there has been renewed awareness of ginseng in the US.
"As the American consumer has become more aware of the importance of immune health, the consumers have shifted to a more generalised population. Ginseng’s ability to address immune support has brought it even more to the forefront,” Adam Goodman, vice president of sales, told NutraIngredients-Asia.
In the middle of last year, the company’s three-year innovation pipeline for the US market was officially launched.
Known as Koreselect – the range currently consists of five ginseng SKUs. Including products from its other brands, the company now sells 12 SKUs in the US.
Goodman highlighted that the Koreselect range was a breakthrough as it addressed condition-specific needs. The company believes that doing so will help consumers understand the different uses of ginseng and identify the products that best suit their needs.
The range addresses immunity, stamina, energy, menopausal, general wellness needs by formulating Korean red ginseng with other ingredients.
“The Koreselect is a completely new category of ginseng, which is condition specific ginseng. That's never been done before at least to the best of my knowledge,” he said.
For example, its immune formulation consists of 800mg of six-year grown Korean red ginseng root extract and 469mg of European black elderberry (sambucus nigra) fruit juice concentrate.
Its menopausal formulation, named Koreselect Balance, is made up of 661mg of Korean red ginseng root extract powder and 251mg of a proprietary blend of peony root extract powder, bamboo leaf extract powder, poria sclerotium extract powder, atractylodes rhizome extract powder, and Korean angelica root extract powder.
Koreselect Stamina, on the other hand, consists of 342mg of Korean red ginseng root extract powder, 53mg of L-arginine, 27mg of maca extract powder, zinc, and octacosanol.
Describing the market reception towards Koreselect as “excellent”, he said that the range had been introduced in over 1,000 stores in a year’s time.
“Ginseng has been used very differently in the US as compared to the other parts of the world.
“Until the introduction of Koreselect, most of its uses in the US was for energy, stamina, and more of a male potency type of product. But in the rest of the world, it is for immune support, it is for daily wellness, its a superfood, its an adaptogen.”
The company also took home the Product of the Year: Botanical at this year’s NutraIngredients-USA Awards with its Cheong Kwan Jang Korean Red Ginseng Extract 240g.
The company has also made changes to the dosage formats of the products, while taking into account the bioavailability and feasibility of the delivery systems at the same time.
Out the of the five Koreselect SKUs, three are in vegan capsules, namely the stamina, balance, and wellness products.
“This [making ginseng in vegan capsules] is unique, because in most of the rest of the world, they don't typically care whether it's a veggie soft gel or an animal soft gel, they don't care as much as they as we do in the US.
“So Koreselect is not just a repackaging of the same thing. They really are created specifically for this market, and also specifically for a new category of product,” Goodman said.
The two remaining SKUs are in liquid stick packs.
“We also decide on the dosage formats depending on the makeup of the product. Everybody seems to be pushing a gummy product these days and we have looked at ginseng gummies.
“We may very well make it available at some point. But a lot of it goes into what the makeup of the product is and the immune and energy products are in liquid for bioavailability.
“The wellness product is in a soft gel because it uses a liquid extract. The others are ginseng extract in powder and when mixed with the other ingredients, the best delivery method was a veggie capsule,” he said.
Building an omnichannel product distribution is another priority of the company in the US, which is an area that it has been working on for the past few years.
Since expanding from a direct-to-retail to distributor model, the products are now available in over 1,000 retail stores, including supermarkets with Costco as the exclusive supermarket retailer.
The products are also listed online on Amazon, iHerb, LuckyVitamin, on top of Asian ethnic retail stores H-mart and Hannam grocery, and franchise stores in the Koreatown in Los Angeles and New York.
As a result, sales have been growing by double-digit each year, Goodman said.
“We have added distribution partners over the last few years to move our business from direct-to-retail to a distributor base model, so this has exposed the product to a much wider audience,” he said.