South Korean convenience stores tap into vegetarian market

Date : 11 November 2019

In response to consumers’ increasing demand of healthy diets, operators of convenience stores in the country are expanding vegetarian ranges.

Increasing demand for healthy consumption

The number of vegetarians in Korea jumped from 150,000 in 2008 to 2 million last year, representing 3% of the total population. The number of vegans is around half a million. Meanwhile, vegetable consumption is also on the rise:

  • Sales of soybeans at 11th Street, an online shopping mall, rose 17% on-year last year, with vegetable condiments increasing by 8% and vegetarian instant noodles up 11%
  • At Market Kurly, an online grocery shopping platform, sales of vegan goods rose by 289% in the first half of this year from the second half of last year

Interest in alternative meat has also accelerated. Dongwon F&B Co., which imports and sells plant-based meat, sold 10,000 packs of ‘meat’ within a month of its launch.

Convenience stores launching new vegetarian products

To tap into this growth opportunity, South Korean convenience stores have launched vegetable-based products:

  • CU, owned by BGF Retail, has begun selling burgers and gimbap that are entirely plant-based
  • 7-Eleven launched ready-to-eat vegetarian products, with “meat free” clearly labelled on its packages

Nongshim Co., South Korea’s top instant noodles maker, released stir-fried noodles that don’t contain any meat last month. In addition, Lotte Food also launched a wheat protein-based vegetable meat brand in April.