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Korean Instant Meals Market Grows 145% in 4 Years

Korean Instant Meals Market Grows 145% in 4 Years

One of the daily activities that COVID-19 has changed is the so-called home-cooked meal at home. As the demand for home-cooked food increases, a field that is attracting attention is the easy-to-eat meal kit market. The South Korean market of instant meals jumped more than 145% in 2020 from four years earlier on the increased number of convenience stores and the coronavirus pandemic, data shows.

Shipments of ready-to-eat items, known as home meal replacement (HMR) products in Korea, increased to 2.01 trillion won ($1.7 billion) in 2020, according to the data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. This surge accounted for an 18.7% rise in spending from 2020. 


The ministry attributes HMR exponential growth to more convenience stores, the COVID-19 pandemic stressors, and greater use of air fryers in households. On a society-wide level the last two years have seen an increase in dual-income and single-person households, the tendency to easily solve meals, and the trend to enjoy delicious food even after eating one meal also contributed to the growth of the market.

According to the report, among the items that people buy are meal kits (66%) lead, followed by soups, soups, stews (54%), and finally instant rice (42%). The types of ready-to-cook food that consumers prefer are 'products that can be used as a meal replacement' followed by 'products with good taste and high quality' and 'products packaged in national restaurants and famous restaurants' respectively. 

The ready-to-cook food market has been growing steadily every year, and exports have also shown explosive growth since the outbreak of COVID-19. In 2020, ready-to-cook food exports amounted to $35 million, up 35% from 2019 and 323% from 2016.

An official from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said, "Recently, exposure to Korean food culture through online video content is increasing in overseas markets, and the popularity of 'mukbang' video on social networking services is increasing, so more people are trying to eat it. 

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs held an 'online export conference for HMR and milk kit products' last month. At the conference, 66 domestic exporters and 60 major buyers from 12 countries with online and offline distribution channels in China, the United States, France, and Thailand participated. 

Gino-sun, director of export food at aT, said, "Overseas buyers were very interested in various meal kit products such as spicy tteokbokki and kimchi stew, as well as sauces and seasoning products necessary for direct cooking, which captured the taste of the MZ generation."  

Source: KR News and Korea Herald

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