South Korea has made no secret of its food security concerns and worries about being over-reliant on imports for local staple foods such as wheat and soybeans, particularly after COVID-19 hit the region, and even developed a strategy earlier this year specifically targeting food security.
The productivity of the local food industry has also been a major concern due to COVID-19 interrupting supply chains and natural disasters such as floods, but according to a recent government report manufacturers appear to have pulled through despite the challenges to even achieve some growth in production.
“The domestic food industry grew to KRW84.33 trln (US$72.9 bln) in 2020, up 4.1% from KRW81.77 trln (US$70.6 bln) in the previous year [despite] being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges,” the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) said via an official statement.
“We have also observed a clear increase or decrease in the production of products related to consumer health consciousness, e.g. an increase in fresh and functional products.”
The ministry also listed the top 10 food companies in the country by production value performance, with food conglomerate CJ Cheiljedang beating previous champion Lotte Chilsung Beverages to grab the top spot with KRW2.12 trln (US$1.8 bln) in production value.
“The second place was taken by local beer production firm Hite Jinro at KRW1.79 trln (US$1.5 bln), leaping from fourth place the year before to second place due to an increase in beer production; followed by instant noodle and snack brand Nongshim with KRW1.73 trln (US$1.49 bln),” said the report.
“Lotte Chilsung Beverages dropped to fourth place from first place the year before [with a fairly large drop] from KRW22.2 trln (US$1.91 bln) to KRW16.7 trln (US$1.44 bln), [followed by] Lotte Confectionery at KRW0.87 trln (US$751 mln).”
Hite Jinro’s leap to second place can be partially attributed to South Korea’s boycott of Japanese products, including beer – Japanese beer previously took the top-selling spots in South Korea, but the boycott has pushed locals to turn to more local beer brands. Lotte’s beverage drop however is likely due to COVID-19 challenges and consumers turning away from sugar-sweetened drinks.
The other notable food brands on the top 10 list include RTE and RTC brand Ottogi (KRW0.79 trln / US$682.6 mln), beverage and snack brand Dongsuh Food (KRW0.75 trln / US$648 mln), seasonings and ingredients firm Daesang (KRW0.71 trln / US$613.5 mln), bakery firm Paris Croissant (KRW0.67 trln / US$578.9 mln) and Lotte Food (KRW0.62 trln / US$535.7 mln).