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Food News Clipping

April 26 - May 3, 2024


FAS/Seoul Monitoring of Media Reporting on Agricultural Issues 

Today's Date: Friday, May 3,  2024

For Coverage:  April 26 ~ May 2, 2024


New Ginseng Breeds
Summary:  Korean ginseng researchers, along with oranizations like the Rural Development Agency (RDA) and Korean Ginseng Corp. (KGC), are actively working to strengthen the ginseng market amidst declining sales due to climate change and a saturated health supplement market.  KGC has developed a new ginseng breed - Seonmyeong - that is resistant to extreme heat and introduced farming tools like sunblock tunnels to optimize growing conditions.  The RDA has also created new breeds resilient to various conditions to prevent root rot.  They are currently promoting ginseng-based products both domestically and internationally, utilizing influencers and social media platforms like YouTube to highlight ginseng's benefits.

Surge in Direct Chinese Purchases
Direct purchases from China by South Korean consumers surged by over 50% in the first quarter of 2024, reaching the highest-ever share recorded.  Total online direct purchases from overseas saw a 9.4% increase, totaling 1.65 trillion won ($1.19 billion), marking the largest figure for any first quarter.  Transactions with Chinese sellers accounted for 57% of the total, followed by the United States and the European Union.  Overall online shopping transactions in South Korea reached 59.68 trillion won, a 10.7% increase from the previous year, with significant growth attributed to increased demand for travel, transportation services, and food items during the Lunar New Year holiday.  Purchases via mobile devices also rose by 10.8%, totaling 44.36 trillion won, while March alone saw online shopping transactions amounting to 20.45 trillion won, up 9.1% from the previous year.


Mandatory Additional Work

Summary:  Across South Korea, people are increasingly turning to additional work, such as delivering food on weekends, to supplement their income amid high interest rates and inflation.  Statistics Korea highlights a significant rise in employed individuals taking on extra work, with monthly averages reaching 552,000 in the first quarter of 2024, a 22.4% increase from the previous year.  While young people show the highest growth rate in this trend, individuals in their 40s and above are also actively participating.  Increased expenses as well as decreased income from main jobs are the biggest motivations for seeking additional work. Although gig economy platforms like Baedal Minjok and Coupang Eats have been providing more of these additional work opportunities, the monetary compensation is insufficient to sustain a living.

Agriculture Ministry Launches Special Team to End Dog Meat Consumption by 2027
Summary:  On May 1st, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs launched a task force dedicated to ending dog meat consumption in Korea by 2027.  The task force has become an official entity for the next three years under the ministry, comprising 13 members, including officials from local governments, affiliated agencies, and experts.  The team plans on concentrating on further improving animal welfare standards and developing regulations and policies to support existing dog farms that will be affected by the related law.  Under this legislation, those killing dogs for consumption could face a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine of up to 30 million won, while those selling dog meat could receive a maximum prison sentence of two years or a fine of up to 20 million won.  According to government data, there are approximately 1,150 dog farms in Korea, as well as 34 butchering businesses, 219 dog meat distributors and around 1,600 restaurants serving dog meat.

Retail Prices
  In March, retail sales in Korea surged by 10.9%, driven by increased demand for travel and entertainment services through online platforms.  The combined sales from 25 major offline and online retailers reached 15.8 trillion won ($11.43 billion).  Due to the higher number of weekend days, offline store sales saw a 6% increase, while supermarkets and department stores reported sales upticks of 6.2% and 8.9% respectively.  Convenience store sales also rose by 3%, but online platforms especially experienced a 15.7% surge in sales, attributed to spring travel demand and a rise in food delivery and gift voucher purchases, accounting for 52.7% of total sales in February.


800 Million Sales of Milk

Summary:  Maeil Dairy announced that their 'easily digestible milk' has surpassed 800 million in cumulative sales.  Introduced in May 2005, this lactose-free dairy product has played a significant role in popularizing the lactose-free milk market in Korea, with sales doubling from approximately 30 billion won in 2019 to about 87 billion won last year.  Utilizing a patented Ultra Filtration (UF) method, Maeil Dairy separates lactose from milk, preserving its natural taste and nutritional value.  The company's efforts in product development and maintaining the original taste of milk have secured its position as the leader in the lactose-free milk market for nearly two decades, with plans to further expand and grow the market to ensure everyone can enjoy dairy products without concerns.


Let’s Boost Bean Consumption

Summary:  Lush Korea has entered a partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to enhance the utilization of domestically sourced beans in its cosmetics line.  Through this partnership, Lush Korea will incorporate more domestic beans into its offerings, with the ministry ensuring a stable supply and providing essential information on bean varieties and production sites.  Beyond meeting consumer demand, they aim to create more awareness of the value of domestic beans.  The government's promotion of domestically produced beans aligns with efforts to stabilize the market and enhance self-sufficiency, with plans to support commercialization through partnerships with companies.  Lush Korea also plans to export domestically grown beans to Southeast Asian countries, offer high-quality agricultural products directly to customers and expand its supply chain.

Korean Franchises Eye Japan, Riding High on K-food Trend
Summary:  Korean food and beverage companies are increasingly entering the Japanese market for broader opportunities, largely driven by a saturated market in Korea and to take advantage of the rising popularity of Korean cuisine in Japan.  As of 2023, 19 Korean food franchises are operating a combined 133 branches in Japan.  According to the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. (aT), Japan was the fourth most popular destination for Korean franchises, behind the United States, Vietnam and China.  This year, Mom’s Touch and Kkanbu Chicken have already entered the Japanese market.  Hollys Coffee, one of the Korean leading specialty coffee chains, is also slated to open its first branch in Japan in May.

The Rise in Dining Prices
Summary:  The prices of dishes at local eateries have surged, followed by the recent increase in agricultural, fishery, and livestock product prices.  According to the Korea Consumer Agency, the average prices for eight popular dishes in Seoul rose compared to the previous year, with naengmyeon showing the steepest increase of 7.2%.  Other dishes include gimbap, bibimbap, kimchi-jjigae with rice, and jajangmyeon.  The continued food price inflation has caused South Korea to rank as the third highest in food and non-alcoholic beverage inflation within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  Major food service industry players like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut are also responding with price hikes for select menu items, while Lotte Wellfood was advised to delay its planned chocolate price increase until June by the government.


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