Region/Countries: Asia, South Korea Industry: Food and Beverage Date: August 2018

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: In particular, South Korean consumers are interested in dairy products and baked goods from abroad.

The South Korean market is considered the leading destination of U.S. agricultural and food product shipments and the fifth-largest export market in the world. Regarding the U.S dairy industry specifically, South Korea’s imports from the U.S. of milk/cream and whey amounted to $29 million in 2017, while those of cheese, curd and butter reached $213 million. As South Koreans’ diets westernize (especially those of women age 19 to 29), more South Koreans are eating bread with meals, and the market for bakery products is growing. Furthermore, in the past, cheese has historically been considered a health supplement food for children, now more South Koreans are pairing cheese with wine or other beverages as a snack (a trend that has also become popular on social media with recipes and suggested pairings).

As demand for dairy products increases in South Korea, cheese is featuring more heavily on restaurant and foodservice menus, in dishes such as hamburgers, beverages, bakery cheeses and even local traditional food. In addition, domestic dairy producers such as Mail Dairy and Hankook Yakult have introduced new cheese products such as camembert, brie and mozzarella, while emphasizing that they use only local milk to make these natural cheeses.

South Korea’s dairy market is very dependent on imports of both finished products and ingredients, especially in cheese. South Korean consumers focus on quality first and then price, with numerous types of cheeses and fermented products available via hypermarket chains, online stores, etc. Furthermore, as South Korean consumers travel overseas, they have a chance to taste international brands. Wisconsin companies can find numerous opportunities to increase sales of their boutique dairy products in the South Korean market.