Korea’s relatively limited agricultural potential, combined with a large population of more than 50 million, forces the country to rely quite heavily on food imports (around 70% of its needs). The growth in this sector is fueled by consumers’ focus on organic food, more diversification, and better product quality.
• A growing market
Overall, we forecast an increase in food sales of 16.8% (in local currency) in 2016, while non-alcoholic drinks sales will increase by 20.2% and alcoholic drinks by 3.6%.
• The customer
- Population: 50 million of inhabitants
- Young population (14-64 years old= 73%) with a high revenue
The population is adopting a Western style and diet, which opens the door for popular US and European products. The global organic trend that focuses on high-quality products with multiple health and wellness benefits also has a growing following among young professionals and the older population that try to stay fit. Price is less of a problem than in other Asian countries, and Koreans tend to spend more on non-essential food items
Observed: Korean spend less than four hours (3,7) per week cooking for themselves, compared to Indian who cook for 13,7 hours per week, or Italian: 7,1 hours.
Possible reasons: A plethora of accessible and affordable food options that includes street food stalls, an endless range of ready-made foods, and supermarkets that offer virtual buffets with a lot of samples handed out to shoppers.
• Tips for entering the market
Even if Korea is considered a country where exporters are met by a friendly system that facilitates trade, producers interested in the food market should make sure that they comply with the country’s import regulations
Finally, after these steps, exporters should focus on personal visits which are very important for companies that want to succeed in Korea. Business meetings and dinners with contacts help create trust and develop communication.
Importers can be met through various strategies: e.g. cold contacting via a reliable list, taking part in major food expos or being recommended by a government or trade agency.
To enter the Korean market, producers should make sure that they are supported by a reliable food importer who will guide them and provide vital market information, as well as customs clearance and, often, promotion.
• The products
Which imported products have the biggest potential according to Korean tastes ?