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Pandemic sways South Korean consumers toward dairy products

May 1, 2021
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: South Koreans are highly influenced by trends and a taste for Western consumer goods, and their increasing interest in imported dairy products could open opportunities for Wisconsin cheese producers.

Imported dairy products have been gaining popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many South Korean consumers have been eating at home more often and have started to watch their diets more carefully, and that has increased interest in various foods, including dairy products.

According to the Organic Korea Association in April 2021, imported butter sales rose 7% and cheese sales were up 12.7% from the previous year. From January through April, Lotte Department Stores’ sales of imported butter and cheese rose by 43% year-over-year, while Shinsegae Department Stores’ sales of imported processed foods, including butter and cheese, rose 28.3%. At Hyundai Department Store, imported cheese sales were up 45.4% in the first quarter of 2021. An official from Lotte Department Stores said high-end imported butter from France, such as La Conviette, has become a hot issue on social media and that has expanded the sales volume. In addition, burrata cheese is especially popular among imported cheeses.

Large discount stores are also selling butter imported from France, Germany and other countries due to consumer demand. Emart’s imported butter sales rose 38.8% in the first quarter of 2021.

Maeil Dairies, a leading South Korean producer and distributor of dairy products, launched a product called Selecs, a sports whey protein powder for an adult health drink. Selecs surpassed $90 million in sales within a year of its 2018 launch. The protein market is expected to continue to grow in the future due to factors such as the continued decline in population and the aging population.

South Koreans are highly influenced by trends they see on television, across social media, and by word of mouth. The pandemic required South Korean households to eat at home more often. Therefore, local consumers started to care more about what they eat and wanted to try some new products. As a result, Wisconsin companies that carry unique dairy products have an opportunity to make an impact in the South Korean market.


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