Korean companies are hoping to get a piece of the vegan pie

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Vegan foods available at a pop-up store at Lotte department store in Jung district of central Seoul from May 27 to June 2. [LOTTE DEPARTMENT STORE]

Korean companies are expanding into the vegan food market.

Department store Lotte announced on Thursday that it will open a pop-up store selling various popular vegan brands from May 27 to June 2 at its main store in central Seoul’s Jung district.

Dubbed Vegan Life Green Table, the temporary store will operate under the motto “Healthy Meals That Save the Earth.” Various brands of vegan products are sold, such as ALTist, a brand known for its meat substitutes.

Vegan snack and homemeal replacement brands such as Organica, DJ&A and JUST Egg as well as the oat milk brand Oatly will also be offered at the event.

A variety of meat substitutes, including vegan jerky and plant-based tuna, are sold in the pop-up store by ALTist, a local brand formerly known as Biomixtech.

Organica, a local plant-based grocery company, sells plant-based vegan cookies and snacks, as well as hamburger steaks, from Bright Belly, a meat substitute brand.

DJ&A, a food company based in Australia, attended the event and sells crackers and chips made from vegetables and fruits such as peas, mushrooms, potatoes and mangoes.

JUST Egg, a California-based company, sells its egg replacement products.

“Vegan food goes beyond a new food culture. It’s becoming a lifestyle and we’ll continue to find new vegan foods,” said Han Wook-jin, head of the processed food team at Lotte department store.

Pulmuone's vegan restaurant Plantude reopened on May 23 at COEX mall in South Seoul's Gangnam district. [PULMUONE]

Pulmuone’s vegan restaurant Plantude reopened on May 23 at COEX mall in South Seoul’s Gangnam district. [PULMUONE]

Other local food companies have opened vegan restaurants to keep up with the trend.

Nongshim opened a restaurant called Forest Kitchen Thursday at Lotte World Mall in Songpa District, south of Seoul.

The restaurant operates on a reservation-only basis and offers set menu lunches and dinners.

The lunch menu costs 55,000 won ($44), while the dinner menu costs 77,000 won.

“There are about 300 different vegan restaurants in Korea, but Nongshim takes a different approach by preparing haute cuisine not found in other vegan restaurants,” said Kim Sung-hwan, general manager of Nongshim.

“The restaurant will be particularly popular with people in their 20s and 40s, as they tend to prioritize sustainable consumption while also wanting to experience new things.”

Pulmuone opened a vegan restaurant called Plantude at COEX mall in South Seoul’s Gangnam district on May 23.

The restaurant offers 13 dishes made from plant-based proteins and meat alternatives.

Soy bulgogi deopbap (mixed rice with grilled and marinated plant-based beef) and tofu skin lasagna are some of the dishes on offer.

In addition to catering to the growing vegan population, companies see vegan business as an opportunity to meet their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

According to the Korean Vegan Union, the vegan population in Korea has increased more than 10-fold over the past decade to around 1.5 to 2 million.

“Since the so-called MZ generation (Millennials and Generation Z) shows great interest in topics such as health, environmental protection and animal welfare, the term veganism was coined,” said a spokesman for the Lotte department store.

“The vegan trend has had an enormous impact on our society’s food culture.”

Lotte Department Store predicts that the plant-based food market will grow by over 50 percent each year and that the global alternative food market will surpass 8 billion won by 2025.

Some of the dishes available at Nongshim's vegan restaurant Forest Kitchen, which opened on May 27th. [NONGSHIM]

Some of the dishes available at Nongshim’s vegan restaurant Forest Kitchen, which opened on May 27th. [NONGSHIM]

BY KIM MIN-SANG, CHO JUNG-WOO [[email protected]]

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