Market Information   >   Food News Clipping

Food News Clipping

March 8 - 12, 2021


FAS/Seoul Monitoring of Media Reporting on Agricultural Issues

Today's Date: Friday, March 12, 2021

For Coverage: March 8 ~  12, 2021



Despite Overall Decline in Food Imports Last Year, Health Functional Food Imports Increased by 16%
According to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Korea’s food imports from 166 countries in 2020 totaled $27.3 billion (32.3 trillion won), and 18.33 million tons. This is a 0.5% decrease in value and 0.6% decrease in volume compared to the previous year.  While overall imports declined, imports of health functional foods increased 16.1% by value.  The increase in imports of health functional foods is presumed to be due to increased consumer focus on ‘health’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Alternative Meat is Now a Trend 
Summary: ‘Burger King’ recently launched a plant based Whopper and ‘Lotteria’ launched a plant based burger last year. The first-time restaurants started serving alternative meat was in 2019. Then high-quality restaurants and hotels such as Grand Hyatt introduced meals with alternative meat.  Plant based meats are now making inroads into fast food restaurants and cafes as well. 
Koreans Drink More Frequently but Less per Occasion during the COVID-19 Pandemic due to Increased Home Drinking 
Summary: The Korea Agro, Fishery and Food Marketing Corporation (aT) released 'Alcoholic Beverage Market Trend Report 2020' on March 10.  According to the report, Korean adults drank 9 days per month in 2020, up 0.5 day from the previous year.   On the other hand, the amount of alcoholic beverages that consumers drank per occasion fell 0.3 glasses to 6.7 glasses on average.  aT explained that increased home drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the changes.  Consumers picked beer as their favorite alcoholic beverage (46.3 percent), followed by soju (29.3 percent), traditional Korean liquors (10.4 percent), and imported wine (5.3 percent). 
Consumer Spending in Restaurant and Lodging Industry Dropped in Fourth Quarter, 2020 since 2016, Bank of Korea 
Summary: The Bank of Korea (BOK) reported on March 11 that consumer spending in the restaurant and lodging industry totaled 18.9 trillion won ($17 billion) in the fourth quarter 2020, the lowest level since the first quarter 2016.  BOK said the restaurant and lodging industry continues to suffer from reduced consumer traffic during the quarter. 
CJ Cheiljedang to Double Its Production of HMR Grilled Fish 
Summary: CJ Cheiljedang, the leading food processor in South Korea, reported on March 11 that it will double its production capacity for prepared, ready to heat grilled fish products under its Bibigo brand.  Bibigo grilled fish has sold 6 million units since launching in late 2019.  Bibigo currently offers 5 species - mackerel, plaice, Spanish mackerel, Atka mackerel, and saury. 
Burger King Korea Raises Prices by 1.2%, Following McDonalds and Lotteria 
Summary: Burger King Korea announced on March 11 that prices of its burgers increased by 1.2 percent on average (as high as 300 won or $0.30 per a burger).  Burger King explained that the price increase was due to increases in ingredient costs and operational costs.  Other leading burger chains, including McDonalds Korea and Lotteria, already raised their prices in February. 
Engel Index Hit 20 Year High in 2020, Bank of Korea 
Summary: The Bank of Korea (BOK) reported that Korean household spent 81.8 trillion won on food and beverage purchases (excluding alcohol) in 2020, which accounted for 12.8 percent of overall household consumption spending.  BOK said that the Engel index in 2020 reached its highest mark since 2000.  BOK explained that household food spending took a bigger share in overall consumption spending during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers reduced spending on less important items such as leisure and cultural activities. 

New Era of Home-Cooked Meals: Market Competition of HMRs Has Begun 
Summary: SSG launched a Home Meal Replacement (HMR) section at malls and supermarkets on March 10 to meet growing demand. SSG is offering 200 kinds of meal kits in collaboration with prestigious restaurants and hotels. Sales of SSG’s HMRs in 2020 were up 196.3 percent from 2019. 
Seba Biotech Obtains First Certification in Korea for 'Natural, Organic Cosmetic Ingredients' 
Summary: Seba Biotech, a Korean cosmetic ingredient processor, reported on March 8 that it obtained the first certification in Korea for 'Natural, Organic Cosmetic Ingredients'.  The ingredients certified include green tea extracts, red ginseng extracts, and Ersung seaweed extracts.  The Korea Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) implemented a 'Natural, Organic Cosmetic Ingredient Code' on January 29, 2021, allowing processors certified by private certifying agents to supply natural, organic ingredients for cosmetic products.  The certification should be renewed every three years.   
Leading Rice Wine Processor Raises Price 8% due to High Rice Price 
Summary: Seoul Jangsoo (SJ), a leading rice wine processor, raised its rice wine retail price by 8 percent to 1,600 won ($1.5) a bottle on March 8.  SJ said that the price increase was due to the higher cost of rice ingredients and operational expenses.  SJ said that it was the first price increase it implemented in 15 years.  The price of local rice in the wholesale markets averaged 57,920 won ($53) per 20-kilogram bag on March 5, which was 40 percent higher than regular years and 23 percent higher than a year ago.  

Consumer Traffic Rises … Risk of COVID-19 Infections Remains High 

Summary: According to the Korean government, the number of public movements in the country (monitored by movements in cell phone locations) reached 72 million during February 27 and 28, 12.7 percent higher than the previous weekend and 28.1 percent higher than a month ago.  The government is worried that COVID-19 infections in the country will not decline anytime soon due to the sharp increase in consumer movements.  The third wave of COVID-19 that started in November 2020 continues to generate some 400 new infections a day. 


Health-Functional Food Market Continues Solid Growth 

Summary: Cash-register sales of health-functional foods in Korea is forecast to reach 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion) in 2021, up 18 percent from the previous year.  According to a November 2020 survey by the Korea Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS), 69 percent of Koreans replied that they were eating some health-functional foods on a regular basis, a significant increase from 50 percent in the 2012 survey.  Over 70 percent of consumers replied that they were currently eating 2 or more health-functional foods.  Local processors have been making extra efforts to expand their health-functional food business to meet demand, including launching new products such as probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, plant proteins, and milk thistle products. 


Expedited Import Declaration of Bulk Commodities Shipped on Vessels 

Summary: In order to reduce heightened anxiety caused by the recent increase in international grain prices and to support Korea's supply chain for food raw materials, a pre-import declaration procedure that promptly handles import inspections for bulk imported agricultural commodities on vessels during the unloading period of 4-6 days is in place as of March 8.  Bulk commodities, though previously declared for import, have been subject to on-site inspections, detailed inspections, and random sample inspections even if a document inspection was completed before the shipment was brought into the bonded area.  The Korean Government plans to immediately collect samples and complete the import inspection quickly and meticulously. 


View List >

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