Ditting has Korean coffee market growing on demand

While Korea is now well known as one of the most sophisticated coffee markets in Asia, this has not always been the case. It is due to the foresight of some visionary business people who spotted the potential in the Korean market and sought to develop it that the country is so well known for its coffee culture today. Kijeong, which was established in 2000 by JK Lee, is one company that has ridden at the forefront of the development of the Korean coffee market, bringing with it some of the key innovations that have helped to make the industry what it is today. As an importer and distributor of coffee machinery in Korea, Kijeong has extensive networks throughout the Korean industry and has played a key role in connecting the Korean market with the newest coffee trends and technologies from around the world. One of the most important relationships that Kijeong has is with Swiss grinder manufacturer, Ditting. Established in 1928, Ditting has taken a leading role in the global development, production, and distribution of professional, high-end coffee grinders, grinding discs, and coffee dosing systems. Ditting has constantly adapted its products to the ever-changing requirements of the market by offering proven, user-friendly, state-of-the-art products and services to its clients. Ditting’s partnership with Kijeong stretches back to 2001, when it joined with the company as its exclusive distributor in Korea. The result has been a strong partnership between one of the most experienced grinder companies in Korea and one of the most highly regarded grinder manufacturers in the world, says Kijeong’s spokesperson, Angelina Lee. “We have built such a strong relationship over the past 15 years,” Lee says. “We always trusted and respected each other and we have worked together to overcome so many challenges in that time that we are almost like family now.” Through Kijeong, Ditting is now featured as the grinder of choice for 60 different coffee franchises throughout Korea. Over the course of their relationship, Ditting and Kijeong have worked together to steer many new products into the fledgling Korean market. “When we began with the Ditting business in Korea, the Korean coffee market was not booming like it is today,” Lee says. “Back in 2001, instant coffee was the dominant product in the Korean coffee market and it was hard to sell Ditting grinders because people did not appreciate the importance of good grinding in coffee preparation.” However, Lee says, Kijeong and Ditting persisted as they shared a belief in the potential of the Korean coffee market. “We were so sure that the Korean coffee market would eventually shift to roasted coffee instead of instant coffee,” she says. “Ditting also saw the potential of the Korean market and trusted and supported Kijeong as their exclusive distributor and we have grown together from there.” When Ditting introduced the on-demand grinder to its range in 2004, Lee says she initially faced resistance from a market that was not ready for what is now considered an essential tool for the professional barista. “Since it was the first on-demand espresso grinder introduced in the world, it was quite challenging to sell the new concept of grinder in the market,” Lee says. “Most of the baristas were used to using a doser grinder and they did not have any idea what an on-demand grinder was.” However, armed with the belief that this truly was the way of the future, Kijeong and Ditting joined their efforts to convince the market of the benefits of the new technology. “We were doing many promotional events such as becoming the Korean Barista Championship’s official grinder sponsor, presenting grinder seminars ,and providing free trial of the on-demand grinder to barista academies and big coffee chains to help baristas to gain a better understanding of the new concept of on-demand grinding and to realise how convenient it is, and most importantly, how it affects the quality of the coffee in the cup,” Lee says. Lee says that Kijeong was not alone in this process, with Ditting lending support for the company along the way. “While we were focusing on introducing on demand grinder in the Korean market, Ditting was also doing its part as a manufacturer,” she says. “Ditting was very open to listening to the customers’ input and reflecting our feedback from the field so that they could refine the product in response to the market’s needs, continuously developing the grinder to upgrade its features and provide a better grinder for the market. As a result of both Ditting and Kijeong’s effort, Ditting’s on demand grinder is now the most popular grinder in the Korean market.” In 2014, Ditting’s parent company, Hemro, established an office in Shanghai, China. This improved proximity has been a huge benefit to the relationship between Ditting and Kijeong, Lee says, and has driven growth in the business generated between the two companies. “This change has brought much better communication,” she says. “The time difference between Shanghai and Korea is only one hour, which enables fast communication for business transactions and increases work efficiency for both Ditting and Kijeong.” In addition to better communication, the move has allowed the two companies to learn much more from and about each other. Hemro Asia now hosts a Ditting brand gathering for Asian Ditting distributors, which is the first time all of the Ditting distributors in Asia have come together in one place. “This gathering was really beneficial for all of them,” Lee says. “Hemro Asia has introduced new products such as the Ditting PEAK, 804LAB and we have had the opportunity at these gatherings to see Ditting’s people demonstrate and explain them. In addition, it is such a good opportunity to build the network and also learn from all Ditting distributors’ own experiences – we share the ideas and strategies for the future and current coffee market.” GCR

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