Turkish technology, Finnish fishermen, Afghan artisans and South Korean seaweed.
South Korea is already an Asian trendsetter, particularly when it comes to soap operas and plastic surgery. Now it’s starting to do the same with a staple that has a long tradition: dried seaweed.
The country’s industry is booming thanks to demand in the US, Japan, China and the Middle East. Exports have tripled over the past five years, surpassing €265m for the first time last year and making gim, as the green algae is known, the country’s second-biggest seafood export after tuna.In the US, the top export destination, the ocean-sourced food is being touted as the new kale. Companies such as Dongwon F&B and CJ CheilJedang have also tapped into the US market, with potato-chip alternatives such as seaweed-and-brown-rice crisps.
Meanwhile, across Asia, the popularity of South Korean seaweed is being driven by flavour. Residents of Tokyo have been drawn to Dongwon’s bulgogi-flavoured dried seaweed and a special wasabi-and-kimchi-flavoured bar snack that was developed in partnership with Japan’s Asahi Breweries.
“South Korean companies are acting very boldly overseas,” says Julian Mellentin, who is the director of London-based food-research firm New Nutrition Business. “They are making innovative flavours and keeping up that sense of South Korean cool.”
Ancient Mesopotamia is believed to be the birthplace of beer brewing and although the Middle East may have lost its reputation for drinking, one Jordanian entrepreneur is bringing the amber nectar back home.
In a scenic hillside village just outside Amman, Yazan Karadsheh brews Carakale, Jordan’s first craft beer and a lifelong labour of love. Brewing in Jordan is a tricky business: there are formidable tax regimes and unregulated multinational monopolies to contend with, while the market for alcohol is small. But by breaking new ground Carakale has built a strong reputation and its flagship blonde ale is available at most of Amman’s bars. Now Karadsheh hopes to expand Carakale further, exporting beers with Middle Eastern flavours – including cardamom, coffee and sumac – to the US.
“We try to do our reel machining work in the winter,” says fisherman Kevin Rowland. “It means in the summer we have time to fish.” Rowland, who was born in the UK but moved to Finland as a toddler, established K Rowland Reels in 2014 with friend Ville Korpi.
The product range so far spans two fly-reel models and three two-handed rods. The reels are handmade from stainless steel and cork. Designed primarily for freshwater fishing, the reels also function well at sea: using one, Rowland caught a bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. They’re now designing a reel for saltwater fly-fishing to launch in 2017.
Business between Burma and India didn’t look too rosy at the end of last year when the barter system that permitted the exchange of goods along the border was outlawed. The good news is that trade between the two nations is now showing signs of recovery.
To boost sea trade, Singapore-based Continental Shipping has introduced a new Chennai-Yangon route that will help the two countries make good on their agreement to expand bilateral trade from €1.9bn in fiscal year 2013-14 to €8.8bn by 2020 and ensures that India doesn’t run out of beans.
River-cruising company DouroAzul was founded in 1993 and has had great success since, posting double-digit annual growth. This year it projects a turnover of €105m and hopes to host 100,000 passengers; by 2017 these numbers are set to increase thanks to a new venture in South America.
Tell us about your fleet.
We have 11 hotel ships, three yachts and three day-vessels for river cruising in Portugal and two more 63-cabin boats are in construction at the moment. Most of our boats are made in Viana do Castelo in northern Portugal.
Why has the business been so successful?
River cruising is a growth business; the phenomenon is not just ours. In Portugal the river-cruising industry is experiencing growth of 15 to 16 per cent a year; globally that figure is around 7 or 8 per cent. River cruising is different to sea cruising: you have views on both sides of the boat and when you visit ancient towns and cities you dock in their heart and you’re able to walk off and explore. You don’t get seasick either.
What are your future plans?
We will open an Amazon operation, with a one-week cruise from Peru to Brazil in late 2017. We will be the first large, European-style hotel vessel on the Amazon.
As thousands of Afghans risk their lives for a better future in Europe, two entrepreneurs are seeking to create one in their home country. Suleman Fatimie and Shakib Noori’s bakery Khanagi (which translates as “homemade”) has become the first in the country to sell exclusively wholegrain bread.
The duo’s strategy was to capitalise on Afghanistan’s deeply rooted bread culture but to also offer something different: attentive service and healthier fare. It was also about providing support for farmers. “We’ve created a demand for Afghan produce,” says manager Khalid Ebadi. In addition to using locally grown grain, Khanagi also offers cheese, chutney and pickles. In Afghanistan’s dire economic climate, Ebadi is proud to say that Khanagi employs a staff of 12 and supports 100 jobs at farms and suppliers: “We’re an example; it is possible to set up a successful business here.”
With their economy seemingly locked in recession, many Greeks are swapping a consumerist lifestyle for one where a kinship with nature is the new ideal. On Crete, this trend has ushered in the revival of a soap-making tradition.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Cretan olive-oil soap was the lather of the Mediterranean. With no shortage of raw materials (there are 40 million olive trees on the island), soap making is taking off again as a growing industry.
Hand Picked Greece, based near Chania, offers soap-making workshops, using herbs and olive oil from the on-site farm and goats’ milk and honey from regional producers. “In these difficult times we wanted to start a business that would make a difference to the Cretan economy,” says founder Valia Avgoustidi.
To the east in Angeliana lies another small business: the Athos Workshop. Here Manolis and Paraskevi Plevrakis have been crafting soaps and creams since they moved to Crete from the mainland in 2007. “When I send bars overseas I think of Crete’s ancient soap makers who did the same thing,” says Manolis.
“My love for Istanbul was tested by its traffic,” says entrepreneur Ali Halabi, who observed that eight out of 10 cars carried only a driver. His discovery sparked the idea to create a ride-sharing app. He worked with agency Hipo and in 2014 Volt was launched, allowing commuters to pick up passengers heading in the same direction.
Volt and Hipo are part of a new wave of companies in Istanbul that are turning the city into a frontier for the tech industry. Hipo has a team of 25 developers and designers and has created 30 successful apps, including Chroma, a platform for collectors, and Robinhood, a winner of the 2015 Apple Design Awards.