One can learn a great deal about a country from the local food, based on the quality of ingredients and what they choose to emphasize on their packaging, shared Katelyn Choe, Acting Deputy Ambassador to the U.S. Mission in Seoul, South Korea, during an award ceremony Dec. 15.
“It’s a seemingly ordinary but very significant lens through which you can learn a lot about what’s important in a society,” she said. “When I went to E-Mart — one of the oldest and largest discount store chains in Korea — this evening, there were lots of Lotte Foods products along the aisles. What really struck me about Lotte’s important role here in Korea is a culture of abundance, the importance of innovation and a focus on creating honest, quality products.”
Choe was just one of several speakers who took the stage during South Korea’s first ever U.S. Soy Sustainability Award Ceremony to recognize Lotte Foods for its achievements to date and the commitment of leadership to sustainability.
Entering the food industry in 1967, Lotte Foods first focused on the confectionary business. Since then, the company has grown to dominate a diverse range of sectors, including beverages, liquor, food ingredients, processed food and dining businesses.
“It is indeed a great honor for me and Lotte Foods to be the first recipient of the U.S. Soy Sustainability Award for the first time in the Korean food industry,” said Jin Sung Rhee, CEO and President of Lotte Foods. “On behalf of all employees of Lotte Foods and its subsidiaries, I would like to express my sincere gratitude.”
Rhee shared that oil is the base ingredient for all these products and the company believes sourcing sustainable ingredients, such as U.S. Soy, is key to sustainable business growth.
“Today, ‘ESG’ is a buzz word,” Rhee said. “Like many other companies, Lotte Foods is fully dedicated to ESG management, especially when it comes to the ‘E’ part or ‘environment.’ We strive to practice environmentally friendly management for sustainable growth. In my view, this is not a choice but something all companies must adopt.”
Rhee and leadership within the business were so committed to sustainability that they organized an ESG Committee within the company of which Rhee chairs. This committee’s No. 1 goal is to advance nature-positive practices.
“Lotte Foods is progressive in its work, recognizing that sustainability continues to be a bigger and bigger business driver,” said Jim Sutter, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council. “Just as [Lotte Foods] is committed to delivering an excellent product produced in a nature-positive way, so too are U.S. soybean farmers committed to ensuring a reliable supply of soyfood beans grown using the best conservation and sustainability practices.”
In 2019, Lotte Foods launched high-oleic soybean oil, supplying it to home meal replacement, confectionary, bakery and hotel food lines. And this past year, Lotte Foods partnered with USSEC to promote the benefits of high-oleic soybean oil through a recipe contest and a soyfood cooking class that helped bring dieticians and those in the food service industry to the table. Additionally, an international symposium of the Korea Society of Food Science and Nutrition was organized, targeting the food industry and academia.
This work spotlighted innovation in food – that high-oleic soybean oil is both sustainable and performs better in the kitchen, requiring less fry time, meaning less waste when compared to conventional oils.
Next year, Rhee said Lotte Foods, through its strategic partnership with USSEC, will step up marketing activities to increase consumer awareness about the value of U.S. Soy oil-based products that are sustainably grown.
USSEC in-country staff, and senior leadership, along with the U.S. Embassy commended Lotte Foods for its commitment to sustainability and adoption and use of U.S. Soy.
Choe said she is reminded of a quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
With that, she thanked Lotte Foods and USSEC for “taking an idea that seems so abstract like sustainability and turning it into a reality.”
— Partially funded by U.S. soybean farmers and their checkoff