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Korea's food scene transforms with growing taste for Chinese, halal cuisine
2023-12-03
It has become easier to spot sauces for Malatang or halal food in Korean food courts, reflecting efforts by companies to diversify food sources and brands to cater to the changing tastes of domestic consumers increasingly drawn to global cuisine.
 
CJ Freshway, a food distribution and catering affiliate of CJ Group, has secured supply contracts with overseas brands since late last year, such as Debic (dairy products), Hai Di Lao (Chinese sauces), Hunt's (tomato processed products), and Euro Gold (frozen potatoes). These imported ingredients are distributed to franchise restaurants, food service markets, alongside office and school cafeterias.
 
In a similar vein, Daehan Flour acquired food ingredients importer Chef's Food for 57 billion won ($44.2 million) in October last year. The imported ingredients find their way to upscale restaurants locally, including bakery and cafe chain Artisée owned by the flour mill company.


 
"We are actively responding to new culinary trends, focusing on discovering high-quality products that align with customer preferences," CJ Freshway said Wednesday. "Simultaneously, we are exploring proposals from overseas companies keen on tapping into Korea's food distribution market."  
 
Recent data from the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation (aT) reveals a consistent annual increase of 10 percent in the number of foreign cuisine restaurants in Korea over the past three years. Restaurants offering diverse foreign cuisines, excluding Chinese and Japanese, have experienced an even more rapid growth, averaging a 12 percent annual increase.
 
The multicultural culinary wave is not confined to consumer-facing sectors but is also making waves in the Business-to-Business (B2B) food distribution market.  
 
CJ Freshway reported a 70 percent surge in sales of imported processed products last year compared to the same period in the previous year. The momentum has carried into the current year, with a 16 percent increase over the previous year's sales achieved in just the third quarter.  
 
The heightened demand for imported goods is evident across various categories — with frozen potatoes for frying leading the way, which has experienced a growth of 1,280 percent in sales from 2021 to 2022, expanding nearly 14 times. Other increases include butter and cheese products with a 59 percent growth, followed by Chinese mala sauce with 52 percent and tomato processed products with 28 percent.
 
"The growing demand for imported food ingredients [in Korea] is because people's tastes are becoming more diverse," explained a CJ Freshway representative.   
 
"Thanks to the everyday nature of overseas travel and the impact of global content platforms, there's a broader understanding and interest in foreign cuisines. Additionally, the trend of appreciating upscale restaurants and fine dining has caught on, leading to an increase in clients seeking imported food ingredients in B2B sectors like restaurants and catering services."
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