Council-NCI Webinar Promotes Food Barley Use In Japan, South Korea

Twenty-three health food and manufacturing leaders from South Korea and Japan recently had the opportunity to learn about new opportunities in health-oriented foods – including U.S. high beta-glucan barley – while sitting in their offices on the other side of the world.

Those industry officials attended a webinar – entitled Healthy Solutions for Food Barley Uses – conducted online by the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) at North Dakota State University (NDSU) over a four-day period.

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) sponsored 13 participants from Korea and 10 from Japan to attend the program, including product developers from leading health food and confectionary manufacturers in Korea and the largest health-oriented food barley millers and processers in Japan.

“This new promotion program provided the Council an opportunity to effectively promote U.S barley to Korea food and confectionery industries,” said Young Jin Lee, Council manager in Korea. “Participants found it very helpful in their product development and marketing efforts – particularly learning about the health and immunological benefits of barley and barley beta-glucan. Attendees said they were interested in developing new barley products using U.S. barley in the future.”

South Korea imported 2,382 tons (109,000 bushels) of U.S. common and malting barley in calendar year 2020. It is a niche market that imports 2,000 to 5,000 tons (about 92,000 – 230,000 bushels) per year, but the Council aims to grow the market to 10,00 tons (about 460,000 bushels) within five years.

To increase sales of U.S. barley, the Council promotes the grain’s nutritional properties and encourages Korean industries to develop products that use U.S. barley. As a result of the webinar, four Korean companies requested barley and barley product samples for product development.

The course offered an overview of the food barley market, including U.S. production, and the latest updates in breeding, health benefits, grading and specifications, quality, beta-glucan extracting and food-use trends. Each day, participants could attend a live session to follow up with mentors and ask questions on the topics discussed. Attendees also had an opportunity to virtually visit a U.S. grain processing facility to see how barley is prepared.

“Participants were appreciative, saying they were able to get such a wide scope of information while sitting in their offices and without spending time traveling to the U.S. to attend an in-person short course,” said Michiyo Hoshizawa, the Council’s program and administrative manager in Japan. “It is important for our customers to talk to U.S. food barley producers, breeders and shippers to understand the benefits, supply capability and quality of U.S. food barley. However, we learned these communications can be supplemented with cost- and time-efficient educational activities.”

Japan is a major overseas user of U.S. food barley, importing and using around 22,434 (1.03 million bushels) metric tons in calendar year 2020. Food barley industry updates like these help achieve the goal of increasing import volumes to 50,000 metric tons (about 2.3 million bushels) per year in the coming two years.

Servicing the trade by building strong, ongoing relationships with food barley experts in Korea and Japan will help create new demand and build U.S. market share for the commodity, as well as create a better understanding of trading practices between the countries involved.

The webinar provided a time-efficient venue to introduce and strengthen relationships for the customers in the two countries with a wide scope of U.S. experts – new knowledge that can be built upon with additional outreach both in-person and virtually.

Find out more about the Council’s work to promote barley exports.