South Korean c-stores pursue vegetarian market

Photo from: Inside Retail Asia

By: Inside Retail Asia

The popularity of diets based on vegetables is on the rise as an increasing number of South Korean consumers are looking for healthy and ethical consumption.

As a result, South Korean c-stores are launching growing ranges of vegetarian products to meet demand.

Nongshim, South Korea’s top instant-noodles maker, last month released stir-fried noodles that don’t contain any meat. Since meat is not used in the sauce or noodles, lacto vegetarians – vegetarians who consume dairy products – can consume the noodles.

Previously, Nongshim released vegan-only cup noodles for export, gaining positive responses in the US and Europe.

Meanwhile, South Korean c-stores have launched lunchbox-style prepared meals for vegetarians.

CU, a convenience store chain run by BGF Retail, has begun selling lunch boxes, burgers and gimbap that are entirely plant-based.

“In addition to vegetarians, there has been a huge increase in demand for vegetables for health and environmental protection,” said Cho Seong-wook, head of BGF Retail’s convenience food team.

According to the Korea Vegetarian Union, the number of vegetarians in Korea jumped from 150,000 in 2008 to between 1.5 million and 2 million last year, which represents 2 to 3 per cent of the total population. The number of vegans is estimated at 500,000.

Vegetable consumption is also on the rise. Sales of soybeans at 11th Street, an online shopping mall, rose 17 per cent last year, with vegetable condiments increasing by 8 per cent and vegetarian instant noodles up 11 per cent.

At Market Kurly, an online grocery shopping platform, sales of vegan baked goods without eggs and milk rose by 289 per cent in the first half of this year from the second half of last year.

In addition, interest in meat alternatives has also accelerated. Dongwon F&B, which imports and sells US plant-based meat-maker Beyond Meat’s products, sold 10,000 packs within the first month of launch.

Similarly, Lotte Food also launched a wheat protein-based vegetable meat brand in April.

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