CJ rises as beacon of Korean food, shopping, pop culture

CJ rises as beacon of Korean food, shopping, pop culture

SOUTH KOREA - When CheilJedang spun off from Samsung Group in 1993, not many expected the food company would grow into a major conglomerate encompassing retail and entertainment businesses as well.

With food and food service; biopharmaceuticals; entertainment and media; home shopping and logistics as its four core businesses, CJ Group has shown remarkable growth and change over the past 20 years.

In addition to keeping the No. 1 spot in the food and bio businesses, CJ acquired Korea Express, the nation's largest logistics firm, in 2011, and is leading the country's entertainment and media industries.

The history of CheilJedang, now called CJ, dates back to when its founder Lee Byung-chull built a sugar mill in Busan amid the devastation of the Korean War. It succeeded in domestic sugar production in November 1953, lessening the country's dependence on expensive sugar imports.

Soon met with fierce competition in sugar refining, CheilJedang completed a flour mill using its own technologies and Korean-made machinery in 1958 and began production.

The company entered the artificial seasoning product market in 1963, with its Mipoong vying against then-bestseller Miwon of Daesang.

CJ developed mass-production techniques for a seasoning product it called "Dashida" in 1975 and nucleic acid for the first time in Korea two years later, which became a stepping stone for the seasoning industry. Dashida, which came in beef, fish and anchovy flavors, was a gustatory delight for ordinary Koreans who weren't well off.

In the 1980s, CJ expanded to processed food items such as beverages and frozen foods, and entered the pharmaceutical business based on new advanced technologies.

The company reached out to overseas markets in the 1990s by building lysine and synthetic seasoning plants in Indonesia.

Upon separation from Samsung Group in 1993, the food company made a transition to a life and culture group. CJ had diversified business prior to the spin-off by entering the pharmaceutical, bio and chemical industries.

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