K-Food records strong growth worldwide despite COVID-19 pandemic
Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corp. promotes healthy Korean food at Korean Pavilion at the Expo 2020 as K-Food popularity skyrockets globally
Date: Dubai, UAE, November 28, 2021
- According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the country saw an all-time high export of agrifoods, which includes fresh and processed foods, to post US$7.57 billion last year, an increase of 7.7 percent on-year;
- Overseas demand for Korean condiments also increased to mark exports of $300 million in 2020, growing by 25.8 percent on-year;
- Excluding livestock and marine products, beverages, South Korea in 2020 exported approximately US$4.3 billion worth of food to the world;
- According to data from Korea Customs Service, the exports amount of rice tteokbokki totaled $53.76 million in 2020, more than tripling from $16.03 million in 2017. The volume of exports also nearly tripled over the same period from 6,008 tons to 16,996 tonnes.
From K-Pop, K-Drama to K-Food, Korean soft power export is growing at a very high rate worldwide. The global popularity of Korean Squid Game is another example of Korean cultural export to the rest of the world. Among all these, the export of K-Food has been consistently growing around 10 percent year-on-year since 2010, according to reports.
According to data from Korea Customs Service, the exports amount of rice tteokbokki totaled $53.76 million in 2020, more than tripling from $16.03 million in 2017. The volume of exports also nearly tripled over the same period from 6,008 tons to 16,996 tons.
“Amid rising interest in South Korean culture, global consumers are embracing everything from TV shows to K-pop. Now, they’re adding K-food to the list, as overseas interest spreads the flavors of the peninsula nation,” Morgan Stanley Research, the global investment banks equity research, said in a recent report.
“Over the past two decades, South Korean pop culture has become one of the peninsula nation’s top exports. K-pop — slickly produced Korean pop music—has become a sensation around the world; the nation’s TV shows have exploded across Asia, and South Korean movies even have their own subcategory on streaming video platforms. Koreans call this exporting of popular culture Hallyu—or “The Korean Wave.”
“Now, it may be time to add Korean food to the list. K-food products have enjoyed robust growth in recent years, largely driven by strong demand in China, the biggest target export market. But around the globe, even casual diners now know their bulgogi from their bibimbap.”
According to market research firm Euromonitor, K-food is valued for its traditional distinct taste but its perception has evolved – Korean side dishes are now also appreciated as well-balanced plant-based health foods.
“With the trend towards sustainable lifestyles, more people are looking towards plant-based foods to be conscious consumers and it is perfect for flexitarians too. As K-food is expanding globally, players are focusing on how to make local consumers feel comfortable with it by providing a background to Korean cuisine, with increased emphasis on the health benefits and/or its sustainability,” a Euromonitor report said.
Morgan Stanley Research forecast significant upside for overseas sales of K-food over the next five years, as Korea’s cultural exports make a deeper impact globally. Combined with a corporate push to expand distribution and make their products more appealing to foreign tastes, this growth trend could serve up expanding opportunities for investors in the coming years, it says.
In March this year, Korean Government’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs conducted an online survey of 8,000 local residents in 16 major cities across the globe, and learned that nearly six out of 10 respondents knew of Korean food.
“The ‘K-wave’ that started from Korean dramas and K-pop is now spreading to Korean cuisine and overall Korean lifestyle,” Park Ga-hyun, a senior researcher at Korea International Trade Association said in a report on the export of Korean condiments.
This awareness turned into record export figures for Korean food in 2020. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the country saw an all-time high export of agrifoods, which includes fresh and processed foods, to post US$7.57 billion last year, an increase of 7.7 percent on-year.
With the rising popularity of Korean food, and with the home-cooking trend amid COVID-19, overseas demand for Korean condiments also increased to mark exports of $300 million in 2020, growing by 25.8 percent on-year, the KITA report said.
K-Food sales have gone up significantly over the last decade and the pace of overseas sale is accelerating due to higher demand. Having saturated in the domestic market, K-Food shifted focus on the neighbouring Chinese market where it grew exponentially.
The growth of Korean food worldwide has been powered by the K-Pop, K-Drama and the K-Wave along with the social media. This proved successful for K-food sales, leading to compound annual growth of 19% in the early part of this decade. However, in recent years, demand has matured in China, driving K-food producers to seek new markets, Morgan Stanley Research says.
At the same time, global awareness of Korean food has grown organically, even as Korean culture has become more familiar to foreign tastes. “In a sense, increasing interest in entertainment content, such as movies, television shows and music, have paved the way for more curiosity about the culture, which then opens the door for cuisine,” says equity analyst Kelly Kim at Morgan Stanley Research.
Hyouk Kim, Director for Korean Agro Trade Center Dubai, says, “Korean food is fast gaining popularity due to food, nutrition and medicinal value that helps good health, wellbeing and longevity. Most Korean food works like medicine and helps develop resistance power.
“With global concern on healthy lifestyle, wellbeing, Korean food has become a natural choice for the global population who are seeking healthy food for good health and longevity.”
South Korea exported the largest amount of packaged food last year since the country was established in 1948. “Excluding livestock and marine products, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, South Korea in 2020 exported approximately US$4.3 billion worth of food to the world. Despite the global pandemic, the 2020 export figure grew by 14.7 percent from about $3.7 billion in 2019, said a latest report published in the Korea Economic Daily.
The industry posted further growth during the first two-thirds of this year as well. South Korea’s packaged food exports until August reached $3.1 billion, up 8.6 percent from about $2.9 billion during the same period in 2020. The figure excludes locally manufactured Korean food, such as ramen or kimchi products made in the US, it said.
Korean food has gained massive popularity in India during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to reports. Rise in viewership of Korean series and popularity of K-pop music could translate into a business opportunity for Korean packaged food brands in India, said a new survey by market research firm Euromonitor.
In 2020, covid-19 led lockdown accelerated the popularity and acceptance of Korean culture in India through dramas available on several video streaming platforms as well as the Korean music bands whose craze here is legendary, reported Live Mint.
Together, the admiration and adoption of Korean ethos through its entertainment content could result in an uptick in opportunity for Korean food manufacturers, ingredients and condiments makers, as well as the food services industry, the report said.
“The rise in consumption of Korean food in India after the 2020 lockdown can be correlated to the viewership of K-dramas and K-Pop. Korean noodles in India witnessed a growth of 162 percent in terms of volume in 2020 and are expected to grow by 178 percent in 2021, according to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India,” Euromonitor said in its recent report.
About aT Center
Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corp. (aT Center) is a wholly government-invested enterprise responsible for agricultural marketing services and international trade since its incorporation in 1967. a-T Centre provides support services for the Korean agricultural industry through marketing activities and undertaking export agent functions for large number of small and medium size agro-processors.
aT Center also provides various agricultural trade information to domestic exporters and foreign buyers. To support overseas market development, aT Center operates offices (Overseas Agro-Trade Center) in Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao, Chengdu, Dalian, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, Dubai, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Osaka and Vladivostok. Web:http://www.at.or.kr