South Korean cosmetics giant AmorePacific will send tea brand Osulloc out on its own. The move to spin off their Jeju Island based premium tea brand is part of AmorePacific’s efforts to lift Osulloc’s image, and comes as Korea sees a revival in its tea industry.
Osulloc, which is South Korea’s biggest national tea brand, will begin independent operations on Oct. 1.
Osulloc is known for crafting a brand image based on the pristine rustic nature of Jeju Island, the Korean vacationer’s counterpart to Hawaii. The island has captured the Korean imagination as a bastion of natural, organic living far removed from the mainland’s pollution and over population. Osulloc grows their award-winning green and black teas exclusively on the island, linking their product to the island’s image while also luring style savvy tourists to its tea fields to take in the scenery. Clever package designs have captured the essence of Jeju Island’s rolling hills and rustic coast, while ingredients like Halla Mountain oranges keep products relevant to modern tastes.
The decision to spin off Osulloc is another move to ensure the brand’s image continues to rise.
“Osulloc will solidify its brand as a leading premium tea brand through efficient and responsible management,” Suh Heok-jae, CEO of Osulloc, said in a press release.
AmorePacific’s late founder Suh Sung-whan started the green tea business in 1979, the image of the brand and the island have risen in tandem ever since. Osulloc has won several awards in and outside the country and operates the country’s largest green tea museum on the island.
Korean culture has an unrivaled history of fermentation practices (hence the fame of kimchi), a trait Osulloc uses in their teas to signal quality and uniqueness, boosting their image among Korean buyers and abroad. Aging their teas in the natural environment of Jeju deepens the taste and aroma of their tea, the company claims.
The decision to further safeguard Osulloc’s image comes as Korea faces a possible turnaround in its tea industry. For the past decade, tea has seen its popularity slide as coffee reigned as the peninsula’s most popular drink. Baristas were elevated, while tea sommeliers worried for their futures.
But an oversaturation in the coffee industry has pushed consumers towards more tea consumption. Coffee imports fell last year for the first time in more than five years, from 146,000 metric tons in 2017 to 143,000 tons in 2018, according to the Korea Customs Service. Cafés have been stocking their menus with more tea options, aiming for younger customers with fruity blended teas.
Jeju Island is also uniquely positioned to benefit from an upswing in tea consumption. Starbucks has listed Jeju organic green tea on its Korean menus, tapping into the country’s fascination with the island as a haven of natural food and a source of healthy organic ingredients. Other cafés are enlisting fruity ingredients in their blended teas to keep in step with a younger consumer base that prefers sweeter flavors. As Jeju Island’s largest tea producer, and with a long tradition of infusing natural fruit ingredients into their teas, Osulloc could be ready to ride an oncoming wave to higher sales and greater brand recognition. The recent spin off aims to lift that image even higher.