Korean companies are showing a greater appetite for vegan foods

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09/29/2022

SEOUL – With rapidly growing interest in eco-friendly lifestyles, South Korean food companies are expanding their plant-based menus and restaurants to accommodate the growing global vegan population of approximately 180 million.

Nongshim, the country’s top instant noodle maker, said Thursday it has launched eight types of plant-based “cup rice” (rice bowl with toppings) and oatmeal in partnership with vegan restaurant Doosoogobang.

Instead of spicy meat, there’s cup rice with toppings like namul (seasoned vegetables), mushrooms, and dried radish leaves. Other menu items include rice porridge with red beans, black sesame, and soybean paste.

Shinsegae Food recently showcased its latest vegan food products including canned ham, meatballs, pies and cold cuts at the Plant-Based World Expo. The company plans to strengthen its global business with its wholly-owned US subsidiary, Better Foods, and invest $10 million by early next year to build the global infrastructure needed to produce plant-based meat products.

CJ CheilJedang also pledged to increase its domestic and overseas sales of plant-based meat products to 200 billion won (US$151.9 million) by 2025. His vegan brand Plantable offers plant-based dumplings, meatballs, tteokgalbi (beef pies) and bulgogi rice balls.

In stationary catering, too, food manufacturers meet the demands of consumers who are looking for high-quality vegan dishes.

Nongshim opened the gourmet vegan restaurant Forest Kitchen in May and offers a wide range of plant-based lunches and dinners with meat alternatives such as eggplant, seaweed, buckwheat, cucumber and other vegetables.

Company rival Pulmuone unveiled its vegan restaurant Plantude that same month, offering lower-cost options including a plant-based katsu, lasagna, bibimbap, bulgogi and tofu karaage.

“Compared to other countries, the South Korean vegan market is relatively small, but it is beginning to show significant growth potential, driven by those who care about animal welfare, healthy lifestyles and the environment,” said Cho Mi-sook, a food company and Professor of Nutrition at Ewha Womans University.

According to data from market tracker Euromonitor Korea, the domestic vegan food market is expected to grow to 14.1 billion won this year and 18.1 billion won by 2025.

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