Market Information   >   Food News Clipping

Food News Clipping

February 19 - 25, 2021


FAS/Seoul Monitoring of Media Reporting on Agricultural Issues

Today's Date: Friday, February 26, 2021

For Coverage: February 19 ~  25, 2021

Korea-Panama Free Trade Agreement to Take Effect on March 1
Summary: The Korea Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) announced on February 25 that the Korea-Panama Free Trade Agreement will be implemented on March 1, 2021.  MOTIE said that Panama will become the eighth country in South America (after Chile, Peru, Columbia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and El Salvador) to implement a Free Trade Agreement with Korea.  The Free Trade Agreement will remove tariffs on 99.3 percent of products traded between the two countries. 

Off-line Retailers Report 5.8 Percent Decline in Cash-register Sales in January ... On-line Retailers Up 22.6%
Summary: The Korea Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) released its monthly retail industry trend report for January 2021.  According to the report, cash-register sales in the off-line retail industry declined 5.8 percent in January compared to the same month last year.  In comparison, the on-line retail industry saw a 22.6 percent increase in sales.  Within the off-line retail segments, convenience stores were the only segment that saw sales growth in January (2.4 percent).  Overall retail industry sales increased 6.1 percent.  

GS25 Launches 'Wine25', Convenience Liquor Stores that Offer On-line Smart Orders
Summary: GS25, the leading convenience store franchise in South Korea, reported on February 25 that its first Wine25 store opened in Gangnam district, Seoul.  GS25 said that Wine25 is its new format convenience store with a focus on wine and other alcoholic beverages.  The Wine25 store carries some 300 alcoholic beverages in addition to 2,200 products offered on-line.  Korean regulations prohibit on-line sales of alcoholic beverages.  To meet increased consumer demand for on-line shopping, retailers recently started to implement 'Smart Order' services, offering alcoholic beverages for on-line orders and in-person store pick-up.  GS25 said that 2,000 of its stores will be turned into Wine25 stores by the end of this year.

Recipes with California Raisin by Renowned Korean Chefs Released on ‘Next GeneRaison’ YouTube Channel [Food News, 2-23-2021, Korean, CES]
Next GeneRaison, a YouTube series introducing creative recipes using Californian raisins, released its new season.  Four videos from Season 2 provide Korean chefs’ cooking videos and new recipes that viewers can easily try out.  Available on SBS F!L, SBS MTV and YouTube channel VORAGO (

Hyundai Department Store Yeoido Branch to Open on Feb. 26 … the Largest Department Store in Seoul … Natural & Healing are Key Themes
Summary: Hyundai Department Store announced that its new flagship store in Seoul will open in Yeoido district on February 26.  With 89,000 square meter space, it will become the largest department store in the city upon opening.  Hyundai said that the store layout and product portfolio target to deliver "natural and healing" themes to consumers.

Coffee Bean Imports Mark a Record High in 2020 Despite COVID-19
Summary: According to the Korea Customs Office, Korea imported a record 176,000 metric tons of coffee beans in 2020, up 28 percent from 2019.  The imports in value amounted to $730 million, up 35 percent.  Despite serious challenges in the café industry which was impacted by COVID-19 social distancing measures during the year, there was more demand for imported coffee beans from convenience stores and from consumers brewing coffee at home.  For example, the GS25 convenience store chain reported that it sold 13 million cups of coffee in its stores each month during 2020, up 20 percent from 2019.

Prices of Many Food Products are the Most Expensive in Seoul Compared to Other Major Global Cities
Summary: The Korea Consumer Citizen Coalition, a NGO group, reported on February 23 outcomes of its recent consumer food price surveys in 10 global cities, including Seoul, Tokyo, New York, Sydney, Paris, and Berlin.  The survey compared consumer prices of 24 key food products in the cities, including beef, pork, bananas, Coca-cola, and Chilean wine.  Seoul was the most expensive city for imported beef (sirloin cut) at 65,023 won ($59) per kilogram, pork belly cut at 37,158 won ($34) per kilogram, imported bananas at 13,200 won ($12) per bunch of 15 bananas, and Coca-cola at 3,195 won ($2.9) per 1.5 liter bottle.  Seoul ranked among the top 5 most expensive cities for other products including Italian olive oil, fluid milk, Heineken beer, pineapple, and grapefruits.  The Consumer Coalition said that the government and industry should make extra efforts to lower food prices in Korea.

Onion Imports Surge due to Low Local Harvest
Summary: According to the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service (NAQS) Korea imported 13,715 metric tons of onions through February 17, up 4.5 times from the same period last year.  NAQS explained that the low local harvest last year led to high prices for local onions this year (3,314 won per kilogram on average during January and February, up 89 percent from last year) and higher imports.  Most of the imports were from China.  NAQS said that it will monitor the market closely for potential violations in origin labeling.

Consumer Confidence Index Rises Two Months in a Row
Summary: The Bank of Korea (BOK) reported on February 22 that its Consumer Confidence Index was 97.4 in February, up 2.0 points from January.  The January index was up 4.2 points from the previous month.  BOK said consumers had a more optimistic view on the market as the COVID-19 vaccination was scheduled to start in late February.

Increasing Trend of Food & Beverage and Dining Prices Expected to Continue in March
Summary:  Prices for tofu, beverages, canned food, precooked rice, hamburgers and bread have been rising recently.  The increase seems to be mainly due to increases in raw material prices, labor costs, and international grain prices.  Industry analysts say that the grain price increase has not been fully reflected yet, so food prices will continue to go up in March.  Tous Les Jours bakery, operated by CJ Foodville, reportedly announced on January 22nd that it would increase the price of 90 products provided to its franchised stores by 9%.  Lotteria (franchise burger restaurant) also raised the price of 13 types of burgers, 7 types of desserts, 2 types of drinks, and 3 types of chicken products by about 1.5% as of February 1, 2021.

Government Audits Found 443 Violations of Origin Labeling in Food Stores and Restaurants
Summary: The National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service (NAQS) under the Korean government reported that its market audits from January 18 through February 10 found 443 violations in origin labeling in food stores and restaurants.  The most violations (234) were missing labels on required agricultural products.  Many restaurants falsely labeled the origin of rice they serve as local while they were using imported U.S. rice.  Beef was another major target for false origin labeling.  A butcher shop sold 233 kilogram of imported U.S. beef ribs in gift packages falsely labeled as local beef.  NAQS said that the violators will be subject to hefty financial penalties (up to about $9,000 in fines for missing labels and up to $90,000 in fines for false labels).

4600 won for a Bic Mac… Price continues to increase in burger restaurants
Summary: McDonald’s announced a price increase in burgers by 100- 300 won (2.8 percent on average).  Soft drinks and coffee prices are also up by 100 won, while the Bulgogi burger increased by 200 won for the first time in 8 years.  Other leading retail brands such as Lotteria, Paris Baguette, Tous Les Jours have also been raising prices lately.

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Agricultural Trade Office, U.S. Embassy - Seoul
Tel: 82-2-6951-6848 Fax: 82-2-720-7921