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South Koreans crave whiskey, wine and vegan meals

May 1, 2022
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Demand for vegan foods in South Korea has jumped, as more young people express their environmental concerns through their culinary choices, opening the door to Wisconsin’s vegan food producers. 

South Korean supermarkets and online stores are increasing their stock of plant-based meat alternatives, as younger and more environment-friendly customers seek healthy meal options and choose a vegan lifestyle.

Meanwhile, sales of whiskey—once considered a mainstay of an older generation—are climbing as well.

South Korea’s government certified 286 food products as vegan in 2021, up 44% from the previous year, and a sharp increase from the 13 foods that received vegan certification in 2018, according to Statista.

Worldwide, the plant-based food market is projected to hit $44.2 billion in 2022 and could jump as high as $77.8 billion in 2025, the global market research firm said.

In South Korea, an environment- and health-conscious younger generation is driving the increased interest in plant-based food. Figures from the Korea Vegan Association show the number of vegetarians in South Korea soared from 150,000 in 2008 to 2.5 million last year. Millennial and Gen Z residents are making the switch because of their concerns about climate change and animal welfare, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

As reported in the Korea Herald, South Korean food processor CJ CheilJedang announced in December 2021 that it planned to launch a vegan product line, PlantTable, both domestically and abroad, with offerings including dumplings and kimchi.

Convenience store chains such as GS25 and grocery stores E-mart and Homeplus also are paying more attention to the plant-based food market and have said they are increasing their stock of vegan-friendly products.

Sales of certain alcohol beverages are surging, too. Even though South Korea enacted pandemic-related restrictions on social gatherings and enforced business curfews, home parties helped the alcohol and beverage industries grow. According to the Korea Customs Service, South Korean wine imports reached $506.2 million from January through November 2021, up 76% from the previous year.

In addition, whiskey importers are enjoying a renewed appreciation for Scotch and Irish single malts and blends. Once regarded as a drink favored primarily by South Korea’s older generation, millennials and Gen Zers have joined online clubs and communities that share information on their latest finds. Whiskey imports to Korea jumped 37% in 2021 to $154 million after dipping to a 21-year low of $132 million in 2020.

Wisconsin companies producing vegan foods or whiskey might find attractive sales opportunities in South Korea.


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