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Plant-based foods are South Korea’s next growth engine

November 1, 2022
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: South Korean firms pour funds into protein alternatives as consumers look for healthy options.

A taste for meat alternatives is growing rapidly in South Korea.

Sales of alternative protein sources, including plant-based meat and fish, totaled $13.9 million in South Korea in 2021, a 35% jump over the previous year, according to Euromonitor and the Korea Agro Fisheries and Food Trade Corp.

The increase reflects a growing number of consumers trying to convert to a healthier, more environmentally friendly diet. Led by millennials, nearly one of every five South Koreans reduced their meat consumption, according to 2020 data reported by the Vegconomist newsletter. It said South Korea’s vegan industry had tripled over the previous decade.

Several South Korean food manufacturers have focused on developing meat alternatives. CJ CheilJedang calls plant-based food its new growth engine and has set a sales target of more than $150 million by 2025. Much of that increase is expected to come from other countries, not just South Korea, according to an article by Viable.Earth. It says CJ launched vegan dumplings and kimchi under its independent plant-based food brand PlanTable in late 2021 and is expanding its offerings with a soy-and-pea-based form of textured vegetable protein to produce a series of additional foods, including meatless short rib patties.

In other moves:

  • Hanwha Solutions, a South Korean energy services company, led a $34 million investment round in Finless Foods, a California company developing plant-based tuna and lab-grown seafood.
  • An Israeli company, Nutritional Growth Solutions, plans to launch its Healthy Heights nutritional products for children in South Korea through Coupang, South Korea’s largest online retailer.

Wisconsin companies that produce or develop meatless food products may consider opportunities in South Korea, as the market flourishes for alternatives to meat.


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