The South Korean market is growing vastly and there is a wealth of opportunities here, but how do you know if your product or service will succeed in the Korean Market? O’ngo Food Communications with KoCTA (Korea Culinary Tourism Association) has a team of academics and intellectuals that have cultural, economic, business, and culinary insight into the Korean market. Our team of experts and research staff can get you the statistics and facts that you need to do business in Korea.
- Jia Choi PhD: President of O’ngo Food Communications. Doctorate in Korean Food Culture and Restaurant Business from Ewha University. Graduate of culinary arts from the Institute of Culinary Arts in NYC
- Tae-hee Kim: Professor Hospitality and Restaurant Managment at Kyunghee University. Doctorate in Restaurant Management from Kansas State University.
- Arumgeum Ju: President of Big Farm: Agri-tourism company. Graduate from Sunmoon University in Food Resource Management.
- Yejeon Choi: General Secretary of KoCTA (Korea Culinary Tourism Association). Masters in Food Science Nutrition from Ewha University.
- Deokyoung Lee: President of Finefoods Solution: exporter of Korean food. Graduate from CIA. Bachelors in International Trade.
- Daniel Gray: Marketing Director at O’ngo Food Communications. Graduate in writing from University of Delaware.
Report 1: Korean Food Trends for Korea in 2012.
Here are some of my food trend predictions for 2012.
It’s the year of meat
- Brazilian Restaurants: All you can eat meat and red wine as meat and wine prices go down mean that restauranteurs will jump on this opportunity. There is only so much meat a person so at 25,000-30,000 won a person means that restaurants will not lose money on meat- especially since Koreans habitually eat rice and vegetables (especially pickled vegetables) with their meals. The restaurants I have seen will price red wine at 25,000-30,000 won a bottle-not as high as other restaurants, but at Brazilian restaurants Koreans tend to drink. At many other western restaurants, Koreans don’t drink much with the meals. The foreign meal is considered the 1st stop on a meeting or date so they like to keep alert- in order to make a good first impression. However, the idea of red meat and red wine has been engrained in Korean minds and having lots of meat means a time of celebration (celebration means alcohol).
- High-end, Dry-aged Steak Eateries: Steak restaurants like The Place, Isabelles, Goo Stk 528, and The Barn have been popular since last year. The steaks are dry-aged, in a sense, but tend not to be as gamey as American steaks. These places tend to be a dramatic upgrade from franchised places like TGIF and Outback. These eateries are places where power lunches, VIP dinners, and romantic dates are held. It’s not so much about the food, but the dark, antique atmosphere and the statement one makes by paying a large sum of money for a hunk of USDA Prime Beef, Aussie, or Korean beef.
- Koreans will get over the stigma attached to American Beef with the passing of the FTA. It has been happening for years since the higher beef consumption along with the popularity of COSTCO (many restaurants get most of their products from COSTCO). Korean beef (Hanwoo) will still demand a premium in Korea, but lower priced Korean barbecue places give more value for money.
- Burgers in Korea are getting more meat in Korea and are being considered meals. I see more ostentatious burgers forthcoming with various toppings. Burgers are going to get big (in size) and get crazier and crazier. Toppings are going to be more western though and not just boring like kimchi and bulgogi.
- Hence…Koreans will start getting fatter and unhealthier.
Report 2: The Rising Cost of Kimchi
In November 2011, food prices rose 4.2% from the previous month and 20% on the year. Although this year the price of kimchi did remain stable at around ($3 a head) and did not jump up to $10-$18 dollars a head like last year. The costs of other ingredients such as garlic, chili powder, ginger, and onions have risen.
To make one head of cabbage kimchi would cost: 15,236 won for material costs without the labor costs of making it. For the average 50 heads that an average family usually makes at kimchi making season it would cost it 761,800 won.
The most surprising increase in the cost of kimchi is the rising cost of red pepper flakes. If you look at the advertisement below from E-mart (one of the top grocery store brands in Korea), the cost for Korean chili flakes for 200 grams is 10,700 won- which would only be enough to make 1 head of kimchi. There is bargain brand of spicy chili flake which costs 14,980 won for 1 kilograms but the chili is from China. Koreans tend not to use Chinese Chili Flakes for kimchi because they believe it is inferior and unhealthy due to their stereotypes about the environment it is grown.
Report 3: State of Culinary Tourism in Korea
The State of Culinary Tourism in Korea
The South Korean Government has spent more than 100 million of dollars in an attempt to globalize their cuisine and make it one of the “top 10” cuisines in the world. They even started a “Korean Food Globalization Foundation” to assist in their efforts. As Korea is becoming a popular tourist destination, it would make sense to incorporate culinary tourism into their globalization endeavors. Is Korea ready to welcome tourists whose main purpose is the food? Not from what we have seen. As an operator of a cooking school and a food tour company in Seoul, there are many issues with the tourism because of outdated laws and a lack of infrastructure. Also, many local Korean restaurants are closing because of rising rents and ingredient costs. If efforts are not made to help preserve the Korean food culture, there won’t be much left to globalize nor restaurants to serve the food tourists have traveled to taste. The confusion on culinary tourism isn’t just in Korea, but worldwide as even the major travel website, trip advisor, also seems perplexed about how to categorize culinary schools and food tours.