The ‘bibigo Kimchi’ story of CJ CheilJedang Center


How both the wisdom of tradition and cutting-edge technology all came together!

On July 8, it was reported that CJ CheilJedang’s ‘bibigo Kimchi’ packaging won the gold prize at the ‘29th DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation’. The bibigo Kimchi package was not a standard vinyl package or pouch package for kimchi, but a traditional pot-shaped package. As it was the first package for fermented food to win this prize, it was all the more valuable.

We can easily come across packages anytime and anywhere throughout our daily life. However, they embody developers’ efforts to put freshness, convenience and sanitation in them and deliver these values to customers. Reporter Carlos visited CJ CheilJedang Packaging Center and heard stories about these packages.

- The ‘final touch’ that completes a good product, packaging

▲CJ Group is the only large corporation in Korea that operates a package development organization.

All products we encounter in our daily lives have packages. Not only products, but we also use packaging for protection, e.g. clothing and shoes. Like this, it is no exaggeration to say that packaging, which protects the contents, conveys product information and exhibits the aesthetic beauty, is the final touch that completes a good product.

However, it is quite rare that we realize the importance of packaging in everyday life. We may think about it when we have to deal with poor packaging. We are likely to take the good things and improvements of packaging for granted. The place where there are people who work hard for these ‘points’ that are taken for granted is none other than CJ CheilJedang Packaging Center.

At CJ CheilJedang Packaging Center, a total of 26 researchers, including Cha Gyu-Hwan, head of the Packaging Center, are researching and developing the packages for various products and services of CJ Group. The only organization in the group specializing in packaging, the Packaging Center, is not only developing the packages for various products of CJ CheilJedang, but also conducting and supporting various packaging development projects in collaboration with CJ Logistics, O Shopping, Foodville and CGV.

Examples of these projects are standardization and cushioning of CJ ONmart delivery packaging, development of packaging materials for keeping warm or cold, and development of packaging materials for O Shopping and CJ Logistics.

- Delivering fresher and more delicious fermented food kimchi to customers

▲Lee Byeong-Guk, senior researcher of CJ CheilJedang Packaging Center, is developing a new container for bibigo Kimchi

They are developing the best angle and pattern for making the Hetbahn (instant rice) container become even lighter, the technology for ensuring that the Dadam minced garlic lid is sealed with the container, and easily released, the in-mold technology and printed trademark and product information that made it possible to express the total area of Haechandle Taeyangcho Gochujang as a design, and the core of the ‘optimal package’ that is easy to use and keeps food fresh and delicious! One day, a task was given to CJ CheilJedang researchers.

“Make a new bibigo Kimchi container for single people or small households!”

Development of the bibigo Kimchi container was not an easy task for Lee Byeong-Guk, senior researcher of CJ CheilJedang, who has been in charge of package development for 14 years, as well as his colleagues. Why was it difficult to develop a kimchi container that can be seen so often in supermarkets?

“Development of containers for fermented food like kimchi is one of the most difficult tasks in packaging. Have you ever seen something like this before? As kimchi in a vinyl package ferments, the package expands and looks as if it could explode at any time. As the state of fermented food continues to change through the fermentation process, stable packaging is important.”

In addition, packaging is the most important for maintaining the fresh taste. Lee Byeong-Guk, senior researcher, continues to explain.

“Doesn’t the kimchi fresh out of the container taste better than kimchi that has been taken out of the container a long time ago? Once kimchi is exposed to air, the surface of kimchi dries up and the taste deteriorates. That’s why you use the stone weight to keep kimchi submerged in the kimchi juice when you store it. We wanted to find the answer to the question ‘Can’t we store kimchi sold in the market in such a way that it will taste as good as home-made kimchi?’ by improving the packaging.”

- The answer was in the wisdom of our ancestors that has been handed down over time.

▲The bibigo Kimchi container that was realized through the encounter between traditional wisdom and state-of-the-art technology

We have dedicated the past year to the development of the bibigo Kimchi container. More than 10 experts, including the food developers in charge of kimchi, the kimchi marketer, and the packaging development researchers at the Packaging Center, were dedicated to this task. Now, they can recall it with a smile on their face, but looking back, the development process was intense.

“While developing the bibigo Kimchi container, we dreamed at night about the research we did during the daytime. We had a lot of discussions during the development process. The person in charge of food development, the person in charge of marketing and the person in charge of packaging development researchers all had their own points they consider to be important. All of us tried to get each other to understand the points, and agreed to work together to achieve the single goal of ‘fresh and delicious kimchi.’”

The key to kimchi packaging that the developers found was the ‘wisdom of the kitchen’ that has been handed down from generation to generation.

“The gentle curve of the traditional pot, the pottery made of earth, kimchi stone weight…. The container and tools that our ancestors used to store kimchi have a reason and serve certain purposes. We searched and studied a lot of literature to develop the kimchi container, and often exclaimed ‘Aha, that was the reason!’”

▲ The 'hold-down plate,' which resembles the Sinseollo (cooking brazier), is the key equipment for maintaining the taste of kimchi! [Image source: CJ CheilJedang’s official Facebook Page]

The pot with round-shaped top takes care of the rising due to the gas emitted by the fermentation of kimchi. To implement the effect of a naturally-breathing pot, they applied the membrane filter and one-way valve, which is also noteworthy. Gases flow bi-directionally, but thanks to the membrane filter that prevents the liquid from leaking, and the one-way valve that emits internal gas, gas can be let out naturally.

Also, if you open the lid of the bibigo Kimchi container, you can see the hold-down plate serving as the ‘stone weight.’ They implemented the stone weight, the wisdom of ancestors that prevents the rancidity of kimchi and helps it ferment more deliciously through research.

“We introduced the Korean traditional pattern and design, and tried to make a kimchi container that is not only functional, but also aesthetically beautiful. I am talking about the taegeuk symbol of the lid, which makes it easy to emit gas, and the hold-down plate resembling the sinseollo.”

Lee Byeong-Guk, senior researcher, said that according to the Korean tradition of stressing ‘Number Three (3),’ he developed a lid that looks like samtaegeuk based on the principle of heaven, earth and human. He made the gas channel for letting out the internal pressure due to the gas so that it looks like the taegeuk (yin-yang) symbol. Also, the hold-down plate, resembling the ‘sinseollo’ container, the representative dish of Korean food, which can be called the flower of Korean food, is not only excellent functionally, but is also attractive enough not to take your eyes off of it.

- Delivering the value of a ‘masterpiece,’ created by little differences, to customers

▲ The researchers dedicated to packaging development (from left, Kim Myeong-Jae, Lee Byeong-Guk and Lee Sun-Sil)

The bibigo Kimchi container, which was developed with attention paid to little details like this, won the gold prize at the international packaging awards with a global reputation, ‘DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation 2017.’ As it was the first time in the world that a fermented food container won this prize, it is all the more valuable. Lee Byeong-Guk, senior researcher, said he wants to share the result with his fellow researchers.

“What I felt while developing the package was that ‘little differences make a masterpiece.’ The difference between easy-to-use sanitary containers and ordinary containers start with little details. Where the customer feels convenient is a very delicate point. Never missing such points, and I believe that thinking ‘how to make it better’ is the key to our research.”

The ‘little differences,’ which the researchers of the Packaging Center of CJ CheilJedang pay attention to, are applied globally beyond Korea. It behooves the researchers of the Packaging Center to carefully observe the needs generated by the differences between different countries and cultures and the differences in eating habits, and brings CJ closer to people around the world.

“For example, if it is possible to store kimchi more conveniently without any lingering odor, foreigners, who may have avoided kimchi in the past, can now eat kimchi easily. To alleviate the difficulties that foreigners feel when they eat Korean food, I think we need packages that reflect their lifestyles. In this sense, we feel obligated to make sure that the research will not only satisfy domestic customers, but also lay the foundation for the ‘globalization of Korean food culture,’ which is the management philosophy of CJ Group.”

Lee Byeong-Guk, senior researcher, says that he is all the more pleased that the new bibigo Kimchi container has been well received in the market. He says that he is happy that it won the gold prize at the ‘DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation,’ but he is more pleased by customers who state that ‘it is easy to use and very useful. I think the new package is very pretty.’ He says that he, as a packaging developer, is happiest when ‘customers say it is good to use.’

Lee Byeong-Guk, senior researcher, representing the researchers at the Packaging Center of CJ CheilJedang, which makes the ‘little differences’ that takes care of freshness, taste and quality, ended his interview by talking about the calling that all of the share.

“Packaging developers and researchers are not working on the frontline. When people hear the name ‘CJ CheilJedang Packaging Center,’ the only packaging research organization in Korea, most people say ‘Is there such a place?’ I think that even though we continue to conduct research away from the spotlight, our results meet customers first in the field. In this respect, we will always continue our R&D with a sense of responsibility, and pay attention to little details.”