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Enjoying ox knee bone soup and oxtail soup at home! CJ CheilJedang researchers Jeong-in Choi and Ji-seung Kim


It’s the season for hot soup. You’ll feel warm all over after you mix one bowlful of rice into the thick soup and gulp it down. If you’ve ever tasted the thick and deep ox knee bone or oxtail soups in winter, you’ll know exactly just how happy it makes you. CJ CheilJedang Bibigo Premium Ox Knee Bone Soup and Oxtail Soup released in October are some nice HMR products that give you the joy of eating at home in this COVID-19 pandemic. These two products are currently going viral among soup lovers, presenting a taste and flavor that are as good as any specialty restaurant. Researchers Jeong-in Choi (Ox Knee Bone Soup) and Ji-seung Kim (Oxtail Soup) who developed these products talk about their passion and efforts, introducing these products affectionately as if introducing their precious child.

The new challenge undertaken by these two researchers who mostly used to eat seolleongtang!

비비고 프리미엄 도가니곰탕을 담당한 (왼쪽부터) 최정인 연구원, 꼬리곰탐을 담당한 김지승 연구원이 연구복을 입고, 테이블 위에 놓인 각 제품을 배경으로 카메라를 향해 포즈를 취하고 있다.

▶ Researcher Jeong-in Choi in charge of Bibigo Premium Ox Knee Bone Soup, researcher Ji-seung Kim in charge of Oxtail Soup

Q. Have you always enjoyed eating ox knee bone and oxtail soup?

Jeong-in Choi (hereinafter ‘Choi’): Both dishes seemed so distant. I mostly had seolleongtang instead of ox knee bone soup or oxtail soup, but I’ve recently had more than I could’ve ever hoped for because of this project. (Chuckle)

Ji-seung Kim (hereinafter ‘Kim’): I think I wasn’t familiar with these dishes because of the price, not the taste since it’s a little too expensive for someone who’s just gotten the first job. In specialty restaurants, ox knee bone soup or oxtail soup are nearly 20 thousand won, or even more if made of Korean beef, so I used to have seolleongtang instead, which is relatively cheaper.

Q. It must have been a new challenge, being in charge of something you haven’t really eaten much of before. What made you develop the two products?

Kim: The season has changed, and we wanted to make new HMR products for consumers who have loved HMRs so far. There was a need for HMR soups in time for fall and winter, and more and more consumers were starting to mention ox knee bone soup or oxtail soup online due to COVID-19. We started this project thinking that consumers would love having these two dishes in HMR products, since they’re both difficult to cook from scratch at home.

Q. We heard you went on a food tour around different beef bone soup restaurants to develop these products.

Choi: Well, not exactly a tour. (Chuckle) We visited around 20 famous beef bone soup restaurants in Seoul and Gyeonggi to develop these two products. They all had different styles and characters. At first, I wasn’t familiar with the texture of knee cartilage and tendon. They were chewy and gooey, kind of fun to chew, unlike other parts of beef I usually had. But then there was this restaurant that boiled the knee cartilage and tendon to the point of it becoming mushy, which gave me something of a dilemma. It was difficult to find the best direction for development, knowing how different the dish becomes depending on the recipe. To create our own unique taste of ox knee bone soup while maintaining the advantages of each restaurant as much as possible, we created an outline by checking the composition, soup flavor, and texture of the knee cartilage.

Kim: Most of the famous oxtail soup restaurants are old, so they had a sort of aura with such a long history, like the mood or the age levels of the patrons. I took my first bite with high expectations, but at first it tasted clean yet somewhat bland. But after going to about 20 different restaurants, I found myself hooked, like those people that are crazy about Pyeongyang naengmyeon. I researched a lot based on this fascination.

What are the secrets to the authentic taste of Ox Knee Bone Soup and Oxtail Soup?

Just the soup dishes you need for this winter: Bibigo Premium Ox Knee Bone Soup and Oxtail Soup

▶ Just the soup dishes you need for this winter: Bibigo Premium Ox Knee Bone Soup and Oxtail Soup

Q. I have tasted the two products you developed with such devotion, and felt that there was a difference in soup taste. How did you find the right flavor for the meat broth, which is really the base of the two products?

Choi: The meat broth for ox knee bone soup must be thick and deep. So, we mixed ox knee bone broth into a beef leg bone broth that had been left simmering for 8 hours to create a richer, deeper flavor. In particular, we tried to bring out the thick, savory taste of ox knee bone soup and ended up finding the perfect taste after many experiments.

Kim: We also created the rich, deep flavor of oxtail soup by simmering the tails of Korean beef. We brought out the deep taste of oxtail with the optimum meat broth extraction technology, again combined with the beef leg bone broth that had simmered for 8 hours, to create the rich, thick flavor of the soup.

Q. In general, the longer we simmer beef bone soup, the richer and deeper the flavor gets, so creating the perfect soup is probably a matter of time.

Kim: When extracting meat broth, bringing out a deep flavor is not just about boiling the main ingredient for a long time. The key is to find the precise moment when the deep flavor comes out, to maximize the savory taste. We were devoted to finding this moment in the development process, constantly studying and checking the optimum temperature.

Researchers check the solid ingredients and meat broth for the soup used in both products. Quality management of the main ingredients is one of the key elements of beef bone soup.

Researchers check the solid ingredients and meat broth for the soup used in both products. Quality management of the main ingredients is one of the key elements of beef bone soup

▶ Researchers check the solid ingredients and meat broth for the soup used in both products. Quality management of the main ingredients is one of the key elements of beef bone soup.

Q. We should also talk about the solid ingredients of the soup. It must have been another key point that appeals to consumers.

Choi: As previously introduced, our key was to create the tender and chewy texture. We tried to bring out the chewy feel of the big beef tendon and the tender feel of the beef blade for ox knee bone soup. This involved CJ CheilJedang’s beef preprocessing technology. The tender texture of the solid ingredients in HMR soup products is determined by how well water is retained within the tissue after sterilizing it at high pressures and temperatures. This preprocessing activity improves the water retention power of the solid ingredients, thereby creating the right texture.

Kim: We tried to come up with the tender and chewy texture of oxtail soup, too, and we removed the bones to increase consumer convenience. We listened to consumer feedback in how it was inconvenient having to remove each and every bone when eating, and made it so that anyone can eat this soup conveniently at home.

Q. As much as the effort you’ve put into maximizing the benefits of the products, there might have been many difficulties as well.

Kim: Since the product requires premium ingredients, we had difficulty in the supply and mass production process. We can only get 1kg of tendons and 10kg of tail per cow. This product could only be developed thanks to the efforts put in by the relevant departments including Young-joon Hong from the Purchasing Team for mass production.

It was also difficult to decide in the initial stage of development whether to make the meat broth clear or milky-white. The in-house researchers had different opinions. Since consumers are already familiar with the milky-white soup like Bibigo Beef Bone Soup and Seolleongtang, we decided to develop a familiar color that would seem more approachable to consumers trying oxtail soup for the first time. That’s how we ended up with this clear yet milky-white soup.

Any efforts to capture the palates of Generation MZ as researchers of the same generation?

Q. I heard that these two products are supposedly targeting homemakers aged 25-49. Are there any efforts made to capture the palates of Generation MZ or single-person households that are the main consumers of HMR products?

Choi: Even though our main targets are homemakers aged 25-49, these products definitely appeal to single-person households and Generation MZ. The importance of a healthy meal is recently being more emphasized, so Bibigo Ox Knee Bone Soup and Oxtail Soup clearly go with the trend. These products also have a price advantage over specialty restaurants, thereby having a low entry barrier, along with other benefits that would induce purchase. 

Kim: Young consumers are buying HMRs probably for convenience and speed. We removed each and every bone from the oxtail for Oxtail Soup, leaving only the meat part for consumers. This convenience will clearly appeal to single-person households and Generation MZ.

Q. You’ve developed several HMR products so far. Which one do you remember most?

Kim: Bibigo Oxtail Soup. We developed The Bibigo Healthy Oxtail Soup this year, so it’s like having a new sibling. We tried to find some points that are differentiated from the product that already exists since the name is similar. I also love The Bibigo Healthy Boiled Duck. It was difficult to get rid of the unique smell of the meat while maintaining the taste of duck. We succeeded in controlling the ingredient after dozens of experiments. This know-how helped us get rid of the tail smell from Oxtail Soup and create the deep, savory flavor.

Choi: My favorite is Ox Knee Bone Soup, probably because it’s the youngest. (Chuckle) On the other hand, I’m not really worried because it’s the fruit of all R&D technologies developed by senior researchers. I just hope it becomes a hit like Bibigo Spicy Beef Soup and Short Rib Soup.

Q. The sales of premium products like Beef Brisket Soybean Paste Stew, Short Rib Soup, and Spicy Beef Soup seem to be growing. As HMR researchers, what is your take on this trend?

Choi: Consumers now have more experience and knowledge regarding HMRs along with the continuous market growth. So, they tend to look for special dishes with good ingredients, deep flavors, and rich solid ingredients. There’s also the fact that COVID-19 is making people dine in instead of out. As a result, the premium market for HMRs is open, and all of us researchers are trying to expand the premium product lineup and develop better products.

Q. Consumers will be able to keep enjoying great products thanks to your efforts.

Choi: We just hope our products give you the joy and happiness of eating.

Kim: We hope you keep showing our Bibigo soup products love as deep as the soup!

Sincerity and devotion make good food. This is even more so for beef bone soup, which takes such a long time to cook. These two researchers have been constantly striving to provide this food to those who would enjoy it. It might be exhausting, but not for them. They have already enjoyed the pleasure of smelling that very smell from the lab spreading throughout the factory for mass production, as well as the sense of achievement that these products would be able to reach out to more people. We have no idea what their next HMR product will be, but it’s clear that these two promising researchers will put all their passion and effort into it.