[This article was written by Aju Business Daily intern reporter Lee So-lee]
SEOUL — South Korea’s alternative meat market will rapidly grow thanks to the increased number of vegans, market data released by a state-operated ago-fishery product trade corporation showed. The country’s vegan population is consistently increasing because more and more consumers show interest in eating healthy food.
A 2021 report released by the Korea Argo-Fisheries& Food Trade Corporation (aT) in early March showed that South Korea had about 1.5 million vegans who rely on a plant-based diet. The main reason for becoming a vegan was to eat a healthier diet. Some chose to live a vegan life because of ethical reasons. Vegans helped the alternative meat market grow at an annual average growth rate of about six percent to stand at 27.1 billion won ($22.1 million) by 2025
Alternative meat, also known as plant-based meat, was developed to satisfy those who cannot eat meat products because of physical conditions such as an allergy or those who do not choose to eat meat because of ethical or religious reasons. They are very good meat alternatives for vegans who wish to savor the rich taste of meat without being guilty-minded for the slaughtered animal.
The plant-based meat market was formed in South Korea a few years ago when food-tech startups came up with plant-based meat products made using beans, mushrooms and other vegetables to bear a similar texture and taste to their livestock product counterparts. While small-and-medium-sized companies take up about 76 percent of the domestic alternative meat market, large enterprises have also made a foray into the meat market.
Emart, the megastore franchise wing of South Korea’s retail giant Shinsegae Group, is a main player in the alternative meat market and sells “Unlimit” products at meat sections in offline megastores, targeting vegans and customers who are curious about plant-based meat. Emart collaborated with domestic plant-based meat product maker Zikooin to create the Unlimit brand.
Other large-sized enterprises that followed suit included Hyundai Green Food, the food ingredient distribution wing of South Korea’s Hyundai Department Store Group, which partnered with Daiya, a Canadian alternative meat maker, in 2021 to beef up its vegan product lineup.
Alternative meat products are now easily accessible through online and offline stores in South Korea. Unlimit products are sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores while other franchises GS25 and CU offer alternative meat-based ready-to-cook products including burgers, gimbap (Korean-style rice balls wrapped in laver) and pasta dishes.
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