Market Information   >   Food News Clipping

Food News Clipping

April 23 - May 01, 2020


FAS/Seoul Monitoring of Media Reporting on Agricultural Issues

Today's Date: Friday, May1, 2020

For Coverage: April 23 ~ May 1, 2020​ 

Robots for "Untact" Customer Services under COVID-19

Summary: Korea Telecome (KT) announced on April 30 that its collaboration project with Hyundai Robotics supplied 2 hotel robots to Novotel Ambassador Hotel Seoul.  KT said the robots are connected to the hotel's on-line network and can make automated "untact (no personal contact)" guest room deliveries 24 hours a day.  Baemin, the leading restaurant meal delivery service in South Korea, reported that it had recently expanded its 'robot server' rental program to over 50 restaurants as many of its client restaurants requested the program to provide safe "untact" serving service to consumers.  Baemin began its robot server program in November 2019.   


South Korea Saw a Trade Deficit in April During COVID-19 Outbreak... First Trade Deficit in 99 Months

Summary: Korea Ministry of Industries and Trade (MIT) reported that Korean international trade amounted to $36.9 billion in exports and $37.9 billion in imports in April 2020, down 24.3 percent and 15.9 percent respectively from the previous month, resulting in $950 million of trade deficit.  MIT pointed out that it was the first monthly trade deficit recorded in 99 months.


Lotte Challenges Coupang with Same Day Delivery Service

Summary: Lotte Shopping launched its consolidated on-line shopping platform, Lotte On, at the end of April.  Lotte's key strategy for Lotte On is 'within 2 hour delivery service' based on its vast network of conventional stores (Lotte Mart, Lotte Super, and Seven Eleven convenience stores) throughout the country that will work as fulfillment centers for on-line orders.  The strategy is to compete against Coupang, the leading on-line retailer in the market.  Coupang expanded sales rapidly by offering its 'early morning delivery service'.  Coupang announced earlier this week that it launched 'same day delivery service' for fresh grocery orders placed before 10 a.m. in the morning.  Marketers agree that on-line retailers will  make additional efforts to shorten their delivery time to attract consumers.


Pork Meat, Cabbage, Eggs, Salmon, Bananas Up ... Milk, Flounder, King Crab Down ... Food Prices Fluctuate during COVID-19

Summary: It has been about 100 days since COVID-19 broke out in South Korea.  During this period prices of food and agricultural products fluctuated due to changes in consumption patterns and supplies.  Home cooking increased by 83 percent (a survey by Korea Rural Development Agency in early April) while dining out saw a significant decline during the COVID-19 outbreak.  Products associated with home cooking, such as pork, eggs, and cabbage, increased in price.  Products that rely on imports, such as salmon and bananas, also increased in price due to reduced production and shipments by foreign suppliers.  On the other hand, products that are marketed through foodservice channels such as flounder, abalone, and king crab dropped in price as restaurant demand declined.  Milk relies heavily on school feeding program saw price declines as schools were closed. 


(Price comparison before and after COVID-19)

  • Pork belly cut meat (EMART retail): 1,480 won per 100 gram (Feb) > 1,950 won (Apr)
  • Cabbage (Wholesale market): 2,980 won per head (Feb) > 4,980 won (Apr)
  • Salmon (Wholesale market): 2,980 won per 100 gram (Feb) > 3,580 won (Apr)
  • Milk (EMART retail): 5,950 won per 2.3 liter pack (Feb) > 4,980 won (Apr)
  • Flounder (Wholesale market): 34,800 won per 450 gram (Feb) > 29,800 won (Apr)
  • King crab (Wholesale market): 8,900 won per 100 gram (Feb) > 6,480 won (Apr)


Local Garlic Harvest This Year Likely to Increase 17% ... Government Deploys Price Support Program

Summary: The Korea Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) reported on April 30 that it will deploy measures to stabilize garlic prices as domestic production is forecast at 360,000 metric tons this year, 17 percent higher than normal.  MAFRA has already supported local farms to reduce garlic acreage by 500 hectares in March to reduce production (equivalent to 7,000 metric tons).  MAFRA will implement government purchases for longterm storage, export assistance program, and retail sales promotions to reduce market supply by an additional 45,000 metric tons.


Korean Economy Continues to Struggle in March During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Summary: The Korea National Statistics Office (NSO) released on April 29 its monthly Industry Activity Trend Statistics for March 2020.  The data confirms that the Korean economy continued to struggle in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Overall production and consumption declined from the previous month.  NSO added that the impact of COVID-19 around the world would likely further damage the Korean economy in April as Korean exports are likely to decline.  Below table is a summary of the government data released:



Overall Outcome

Key Sector Outcome


-0.3 percent decline from the previous month

-17.7 percent for restaurants and hotels

-3.4 percent for chemicals

+2.6 percent for finance & insurance

+45.1 percent for automobiles


-1.0 percent decline from the previous month

-4.4 percent for disposable products, including food and cosmetics

-11.9 percent for semi-disposables, including clothing

+14.7 percent for durable products, including automobile


+7.9 percent growth for manufacturing facilities




Corporate Jobs Decline by 225,000 in March under COVID-19 Restaurants and Hotels Lost the Most Jobs

Summary: According to the monthly employment report for March 2020 released by the Korea Ministry of Employment and Labor (MEL) on April 28, the number of corporate employees in Korea totaled 18,278,000, down 1.2 percent (or 225,000 people) from the same month last year.  Restaurants and hotels saw the largest decline in the number of employees, down 12 percent (or 153,000 people).  Part-time jobs saw much higher decline (-7 percent) compared to full-time jobs (-0.1 percent).


Price of Local Flower Crabs Up 8% This Season due to Low Catch

Summary: Wholesale market price of local flower crabs marked 48,500 won ($39.4 USD) per kilogram in the third week of April, up 8 percent from the same period last year.  April is a peak season for local flower crabs but the lower catch this year has resulted in reduced supply and higher price.


Coupang Launches Same Day Delivery for Fresh Groceries

Summary: Coupang, the leading on-line retailer in South Korea, announced on April 29 that it launched a same day delivery service for fresh groceries.  The service, available only to Rocket Wow Club members ($2.4 USD monthly fee), delivers fresh groceries ordered before 10 a.m. by 6 p.m. the same day.  There is no delivery fee charged if the order amount is 15,000 won ($12.2 USD) or higher.


President Trump to Order Meat Processors to Continue to Operate

Summary: The Bloomberg reported on April 28 that U.S. President Donald Trump was going to issue an administrative order to keep meat processing facilities in the United States in operation despite COVID-19 infections among the workers. 


Vietnam Allows 340 Korean Business Travelers to Enter

Summary: According to the Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Vietnamese government has allowed 340 Korean business travelers from 143 companies to enter Vietnam and engage in business activities such as construction or management of processing facilities.  The travelers will depart for Vietnam on May 29 in two chartered flights.  MFA said this is the first large group of foreign travelers that Vietnamese government approved for entry since it introduced outright travel ban on international travelers on March 22.  The travelers will be required to take COVID-19 testing before boarding the flights and will stay 14 days under hotel quarantine upon arrival before being released and engaging in business activities.


Bosung Green Tea Farms Start First Picking

Summary: Green tea farms in Bosung, Junranamdo province (a major inland area for green tea) have started the first picking.  The first picking, which generates the best quality tea leaves for the year, will continue until mid-May.  Farms are reportedly having difficulty in securing enough labor for the picking work due to COVID-19.


New Yogurt by Purmeal Targets Immune System Support

Summary: Purmeal, a major dairy processor in South Korea, launched a new yogurt product, 'Triple Care'.  Purmeal said the new product offers three healthy functions, prebiotics, probiotics, and immune system support, as it contains three different lactic bacteria along with special ingredients such as Sanghwang mushroom extracts and zinc.


EMART Stages 'Minions' Sales Promotion

Summary: EMART, the leading hypermarket store chain in South Korea, launched 'Minions' promotion on April 27; the promotion will last until the end of May.  EMART offers some 50 food and non-food products with a Minions-yellow theme in the store.


Shinsegae Department Store Introduces Station for COVID-19 Sanitary Products

Summary: Shinsegae Department Store reported on April 27 that its branch in Gangnam-gu and Jung-gu introduced a special station that offers a variety of COVID-19 sanitary products such as masks and hand washes.


Korea Ginseng Corporation Launches "Secure Your Family Immunity' Sales Promotion

Summary: Korea Ginseng Corporation (KGC) launched a sales promotion on April 27 under the title of "Secure Your Family Immunity".  The promotion which offers a variety of processed ginseng products that help strengthen the immune system until the end of May.


Consumer Confidence Index Declines Further in April, Bank of Korea

Summary: Bank of Korea (BOK) reported that its Consumer Confidence Index for April was 70.8, down 7.6 points from March.  It was the lowest level since December 2008 (67.7) when the Korean economy was hit hard by the Asian economic crisis.  BOK explained that consumers had negative views on spending, income, debt, and job security under the COVID-19 outbreak.


Low Cost Carriers Schedule 6,160 Flights during Upcoming Golden Week in May

Summary: Six low cost carriers (LCC) in South Korea have reportedly scheduled 6,160 flights to local destinations during the upcoming 'Golden Week' (April 30-May 5).  A large number of Koreans will travel during this period as three local holidays fall during the week.  Jeju island, a popular vacation site, will receive 2,614 of the flights.  However, LCCs added that the booking level in the week after Golden Week is only 20-30 percent of the pre-COVID-19 level, reflecting high consumer health concerns about COVID-19.


Lotte Shopping Launches a Consolidated On-line Shopping Platform, Lotte On Targets $17 Billion Annual Sales

Summary: Lotte Shopping, a leading retail company in South Korea, reported that its consolidated on-line shopping platform, Lotte On, is launched on April 28.  Lotte On brings all products and services previously offered in seven separate on-line shopping tools under the umbrella of Lotte Shopping.  Lotte Shopping said the consolidated platform will provide a more catered and efficient on-line shopping experience for consumers.  Lotte Shopping targets to generate 20 trillion won ($17 billion USD) in annual sales through the platform by 2023.


Dongwon Offers Tuna Sashimi in Coupang for Home Delivery Orders

Summary: Dongwon, a leading fishery processor in South Korea, reported on April 27 that its fresh tuna sashimi (sliced raw fish meat) was launched in Coupang, the leading on-line retail store in the market, for home delivery orders.  Dongwon said the on-line delivery service will allow consumers to enjoy fresh tuna sashimi at home without visiting stores or restaurants.


Home Meal Replacement Products Eat into Food Service Market – Koreans in Their 20s Dine Out Alone Half of the Time

Summary:  With the spread of COVID-19, the wave of untact sales is rapidly spreading throughout Koreans lives based on world-class social information networks, including medical services, telecommuting, distance education, and delivery.  This spread has become a double-edged sword in related industries.  The catering industry, one of the top face-to-face industries, is directly affected by this unprecedented situation.  For the past five years, the frequency of eating out by Koreans has continued to decline.  The frequency of eating out decreased from 15 times a month in 2016 to 14.8 in 2017, 13.9 in 2018 and 12.9 in 2019.  There may be various reasons, but HMR products and services have been diversified and fresh home delivery is becoming more convenient.  the domestic HMR market grew at an estimated average annual rate of 30% over the past five years, and the market size is expected to exceed KRW 7 trillion this year.  Daybreak Delivery sales are also expected to grow by 250% each year, exceeding KRW 1 trillion this year.  The frequency of eating out decreased, but the number of monthly meals eaten alone increased from an average of 3.7 in 2016 to 4.2 in 2019.


COVID-19 Brings Big Shifts in Consumer Foodservice Purchases, AC Neilson Korea Survey

Summary: AC Neilson Korea released a COVID-19 Impact Report based on a consumer survey (500 people nationwide) it carried out on March 9-11.  The survey found that Korean consumers changed their foodservice purchasing behaviors to avoid risking infection.  The ratio of consumers who made delivery orders from restaurants increased to 52 percent (from 33 percent before COVID-19).  The ratio of consumers who purchased take-out meals in restaurants increased to 29 percent (from 23 percent before COVID-19).  On the other hand, the ratio of consumers who ate in restaurants declined to 19 percent (from 44 percent before COVID-19).  Consumers replied that their overall outdoor activities and shopping trips declined by 67 percent and 61 percent respectively since the COVID-19 outbreak.  On the other hand, their on-line social media activities and gaming increased 73 percent and 56 percent respectively. 


Large-scale Exhibitions and Conventions to Resume in May Leading convention venues in South Korea have reported that they plan to reopen facilities in May and stage large-scale exhibitions and conventions as scheduled.  The KINTEX convention center in Goyang-si plans to hold the MBC Housing Show from May 8 and the Korea Baby Fair from May 28.  The BEXCO convention center in Busan-si plans to hold the Home Living & Household Product Show from May 1.  The convention centers will implement measures to control COVID-19 during the events such as minimizing activities that can generate physical contacts on the show floor and introducing wider aisles between booths to allow enough distance between visitors.


Hotels and Resorts Report Strong Reservations for Upcoming Golden Week

Summary: The week of April 30 through May 8 is called 'golden week' in South Korea as important local holidays fall during it - Buddha's birthday (April 30), Labor day (May 1), Children's day (May 5), and Parents day (May 8).  Many Koreans will likely engage in social and outdoor activities during the week as indicated by strong reservations in key tourism destinations in the country.  The 28 golf resorts in Jeju province reported that their facilities were almost fully booked for the week.  Leading resort hotels in Gangwon province also reported full booking for the week.  Major resorts in Jeolanam province reported 80 percent booking for the week.  Local governments express serious concerns for potential re-spreading of COVID-19 during the week and are preparing for elevated disinfection measures in key tourism areas.


Leading Restaurant Franchises Close Stores ... Home Delivery and HMR Products are New Focus

Summary: Leading restaurant franchises in South Korea have closed many stores over the last couple of months due to weak sales during the COVID-19 outbreak.  According to Hankyung Business Daily's survey, the top three restaurant franchises in the market, CJ Foodville, Shinsegae Food and Lotte GRS, together have closed 17 stores since February due to weak sales.  Today Korea, a leading seafood buffet franchise, has temporarily closed all stores since February 25.  Leading restaurant franchises are making efforts to find new growth opportunities by launching home delivery services and Home-Meal-Replacement (HMR) processed foods for retail distribution.


On-line Shopping Surges during the First Quarter

Summary: According to WiseApp, a market research service in South Korea, major on-line retailers have generated outstanding sales growth during the first quarter during the COVID-19 outbreak.  Coopang, the leading on-line retailer in the market, generated 4.8 trillion won of sales ($3.8 billion) during the first quarter, followed by Ebay Korea (4.2 trillion won).  WiseApp said on-line retailers saw their monthly sales expand rapidly during the quarter, indicating consumers are switching to on-line shopping during the COVID-19 outbreak.



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