Foxconn Could Boost Wisconsin Ginseng Sales

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Premiere Date: 
August 4, 2017

Foxconn Could Boost Wisconsin Ginseng Sales

Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou signed a memorandum of understanding with Wisconsin ginseng growers last week to help promote the herb to overseas markets. We speak to Bob Kaldunski, president of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin. Foxconn's interest in ginseng caught him off guard, he says, "It's very rare for a company to come see us." He hopes the relationship will boost sales both at home and abroad.

Episode Transcript

Zac Schultz:

Governor Walker says the impact of Foxconn’s investment will be felt across the state. There's already some evidence of that happening. During last week's signing ceremony in Milwaukee, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou also signed a memorandum of understanding with the state's ginseng growers and received an honorary gift of ginseng roots. Joining us from Wausau to talk about this relationship is Bob Kaldunski, a grower of ginseng and the president of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin. Thanks for your time today.

Bob Kaldunski:

You're welcome.

Zac Schultz:

At the event Chairman Gou said he and his family had been using Wisconsin ginseng for decades. Other than the personal connection, why would a high tech company like Foxconn get involved in the production of an ancient herbal remedy like ginseng?

Bob Kaldunski:

Caught us off guard a little bit, too, why they were interested. Terry, as you mentioned, he's very passionate about the Wisconsin ginseng. I think what he wants to do--his first wife has passed from cancer. And he himself has put forth over half a billion dollars, they said, just for cancer research. He values the Wisconsin ginseng product as something pure and wholesome and healthy. And his goal is to market this across the country, value added-wise. He just feels there's value there. And that it is a product that would fit in part of their health and bio-science division.

Zac Schultz:

Would this create access to new markets for Wisconsin growers or increase prices or increase production?

Bob Kaldunski:

Potentially, yes. What they're looking at, from my understanding with the communication that we have talking with them, is they're looking at value-added products. Reaching that millennial out there, that marketplace. That consumer now, we hear quite often, that millennial is wanting the Wisconsin ginseng might be bitter. They want a little sweetness with it. So maybe they're putting honey or something like that to offset the bitterness. And what they're looking at doing with their technologies, making that value-added product more appealing. And with their distribution that they have, with their electronics, would be a natural fit for them to go into the health market or value-added product, convenience product.

Zac Schultz:

A lot of Wisconsin ginseng already goes overseas to places especially in Asia. Do you expect that to increase or do you think there's a growing the market in the United States as a possibility as well?

Bob Kaldunski:

I expect both. The export market will probably increase. There's a couple things behind that. Some of that is the China government. Their new laws on residue levels in products. Our product falls into in the pharmaceutical grade so that the Chinese government or pharmaceutical companies are looking for a product. The other thing in this country, we'll also I believe have the potential for the value-added product. The convenience, as your parents, our parents, went to the grocery store, bought chunks of cheese, bought things in balk. That's changing. Now shredded cheese, sliced cheese. Same thing with ginseng. The market now is wanting chips. They're wanting slices, kind of convenience things. So yes, it definitely will increase market.

Zac Schultz:

Just under a minute left, do you expect to increase the size of your farm? Have you spoken to other farmers that think this will mean a difference for them?

Bob Kaldunski:

Everybody's excited about it. It's very rare for a company to come seek us. We spend a lot of money, a lot of time overseas in the Asia countries, looking and prospecting customer, companies. And for a company to come to us and wanting to invest in our industry is pretty special. And will I increase? Probably not. As our industry is, our industry is older. We are, just like most agriculture, we are all five to 10 years from retirement. We hope as it does bring excitement and it brings the younger generation into the market. It's too early to tell yet. We don't have the communication. We haven't had a dialogue on where, what they want to do, but it potentially could, yes.

Zac Schultz:

Bob Kaldunski from Wausau, thanks for your time today.

Bob Kaldunski:

Thank you very much.

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