Selling Chinese sauce to the globe

By Li Ying Source:Global Times Published: 2016-6-5 20:23:01

An aerial photo of Lee Kum Kee's Xinhui production plant Photo: Courtesy of Lee Kum Kee


(From left to right) Yang Jieming, Lee Kum Kee's chief technologist; Sun Shengmei, its associate director of regulation and standard; Hung Kwan Doh, its executive vice president of corporate affairs; Chen Shu, its associate corporate affairs director Photo: Courtesy of Lee Kum Kee

It was in the humble kitchen of a teahouse that sold poached oyster soup in Nanshui, Guangdong Province, that Lee Kum Sheun, a young man from nearby township Xinhui, accidentally created the now famous oyster sauce.

Being too occupied, Lee forgot about the fire on the stove. When a strong aroma was smelt, he rushed to the stove and found a wok of overcooked oysters covered with a thick layer of dark brown paste. Surprisingly, the paste tasted delectable.

The year was 1888, and it was the start of the legend of Lee Kum Kee, a longstanding and leading sauce manufacturer in China. At the corporate museum in Lee Kum Kee's Xinhui production plant, the Lee family's stories have repeatedly been told, rolling out a picture of the family company's striving and never ceasing innovation over the past 128 years.

In late May, a group of reporters from media in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong visited Xinhui to learn more about the family company. The group was joined by Hung Kwan Doh, the company's executive vice president of corporate affairs; Yang Jieming, the Xinhui plant's chief technologist; Sun Shengmei, its associate director of regulation and standard; and Chen Shu, its associate corporate affairs director.

Xinhui is well-known as the hometown of overseas Chinese immigrants. From this prime location in Guangdong, one of China's hubs to the world, the Lee family has built a sauce and ingredient kingdom that spans more than 100 countries and regions around the globe.

With more than 200 different types of Lee Kum Kee products, the company produces almost all the sauces and seasonings used in Chinese and Asian dishes. Some of its top sauces, such as soy sauce, hoisin sauce, XO sauce, and chili sauce are constant table companions in many Chinese households both in China and abroad. They even travelled to the space, after becoming one of a handful of items to accompany Chinese astronauts in the Shenzhou-10 and Shenzhou-9 spacecrafts.

The Lee Kum Kee family has also made significant contributions to the community. One such contribution is a 1.29-kilometer-long bridge near the Nantan Waterway in Xinhui, which bears the name of its donor Lee Man Tat, a third generation Lee and chairman of the Lee Kum Kee Group, who has been integral in expanding the brand both locally and internationally.

Now, headquartered in Hong Kong, Lee Kum Kee has factories in the US, Malaysia and China. Still a jewel in the brand's crown, the Xinhui plant features a high-tech laboratory and serves as the company's food safety monitoring and testing center.

The laboratory, which was certificated by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS) in March, strictly tracks and controls the produce used in their production from the farm to the shelf. The CNAS results are recognized by more than 50 countries and regions around the world. Another highlight of the Xinhui plant is its soy sauce production system. After the soybeans - all of which are non-GM produced - are collected, they enter a production line which includes screening, soaking and koji making - the core technology in soy sauce making. Its fully-automatic state-of-the-art soy sauce production line is a joint innovation between Lee Kum Kee and the Fujiwara Techno-Art company in Japan.

To reflect the company's persistence in quality management, Charlie Lee, the sauce group chairman of Lee Kum Kee came up with the "100-1=0" quality management method, in which all of its efforts come to naught if even one of the 100 aspects of the production process fails to meet its high standards.

Among the Chinese enterprises, Lee Kum Kee is one of the few still standing after more than a century in the business.

The core value of the longstanding family enterprise lays in its "Si Li Ji Ren" philosophy, which means considering the interests of others whenever making a decision.

Posted in: Press Release, Enterprise

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