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A Field Report of 2017 K-Food Fair in New York

B2B Export Consultations at Trump SoHo on September 4 and 5 Attended by 28 Korean Food Exporters and a Hundred Buyers from North, Central, and South America
The 2017 K-Food Fair in New York was held for two days on September 4 and 5 at the Trump SoHo New York Hotel located in Manhattan, the very heart of New York City and the center of commerce, finance, and culture in the US. The fair aimed to boost exports of Korean agriproducts in the Americas. Below are the details of the fair along with the response to Korean food products from consumers, buyers, and experts who attended the event.

The Introduction of Promising Korean Products Matching American Food Trends Leads to US$ 41.55 Million Worth of Potential Exports
The 2017 K-Food Fair was organized to introduce various promising products to foreign buyers and offer Korean food exporters a more effective means for entering the American markets. Export consultations between Korean companies and American buyers were arranged as the main event of the fair. There were also other events such as export seminars on customs clearance and US FDA FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act), consultations on Kosher food, and a reception.

The export consultations held on September 5 were attended by 28 Korean food exporters and about a hundred buyers from the American region—the US, Canada, Brazil, Peru, and other countries in North, Central, and South America. The Korean exporters introduced a variety of food products including the already popular aloe drinks, fresh pears, and dried seaweed as well as promising products such vinegar-based beverages, instant tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake), brown rice oil, and powdered yuja (citron) tea. The promising products received a great deal of attention from local buyers because they suit the recent trends among American consumers for spicy food and healthy yet convenient foods. Thanks to the outstanding performance of promising products, the fair recorded a staggering result of US$ 41.55 million worth of potential exports.

Rising Stars of the Fair: Vinegar-based Beverages and Instant Tteokbokki
Brand Acumen, one of the participating Korean companies, introduced its sparkling vinegar beverage under the concept of a healthy drink with naturally-fermented ingredients. The company succeeded in signing a whopping US$ 10 million export contract with a local buyer, Chimex. Young Poong, a Korean tteokbokki exporter, concluded a contract worth US$ 1 million with T.UP Trading for an instant tteokbokki product emphasizing convenience and spiciness.

Responses to Korean Food Products in New York

- Consumers: Michael Allen and Meri Allen

Michael Allen and Meri Allen are self-proclaimed Korean food enthusiasts. The couple said they buy Korean food more than once a week at a large supermarket called Food Bazaar located in their neighborhood. They like Korean instant noodles (ramyeon), kimchi, and gochujang (red pepper paste). According to the Allens, Korean products outdo their Asian rivals in terms of taste and quality and are also reasonably priced.

- Experts: Matt Thomas and Jay Bhattacharjee, Senior Director and Manager of Specialty Food Association

Thomas and Bhattacharjee pointed out that the range of consumers who are likely to purchase Korean food in the US has expanded from Koreans residing abroad to overseas Chinese and Hispanic consumers. Some Korean products such as aloe drinks, seaweed snacks, and instant ramyeon sell well in renowned hypermarkets like Costco. Kimchi and gochujang, both of which are fermented foods, have their merits and fit with the American trend for healthy living. These days, American consumers are highly interested in healthy food products and ingredients. Thus, with just a little change to existing products—for example, offering kimchi pickles or liquefied gochujang sauce—Korean producers can easily enter the mainstream American market.

- Buyer: Hyo-eung Takao Roh, President of T.UP Trading

Processed Korean foods such as snacks, sauces, and pastes are currently supplied mainly to Asian supermarkets in the US. Thanks to the popularity of Hallyu (the Korean wave) and the unique characteristics of Korean cuisine, Korean food products receive favorable evaluations from many consumers. Young Asian Americans are enthusiastic about Korean street food, which is the reason why T.UP Trading went ahead with a contract with Young Poong to import instant tteokbokki. Roh believes Korean sauces such as bulgogi (Korean barbeque) sauce and gochujang will become popular among American consumers for their unique flavors.

Interview with Kim Kwang-jin, President of aT Center in New York

"Ramyeon, aloe drinks, and other Korean food products are in the spotlight in the US"

Kim Kwang-jin, who was appointed as president of the New York branch of aT (Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corporation) last February, played a leading role in hosting the fair. He wanted the fair to be a place for the communication between Korean food companies and local buyers and for the discovery of highly marketable and promising Korean products. He said, “I hope the fair becomes a guide for helping promising Korean products advance into the US market.”

Kim noted a continuous trend of increased consumption of Korean food in the US. Aloe drinks and instant ramyeon, in particular, are easily found in mainstream hypermarkets such as Walmart. Kim said, “Korean seaweed snacks are popular among health-conscious American consumers; they are also interested in crunchy, gluten-free rice snacks.” He added, "Another positive development is that in the last three years, the export volume of fresh food—such as pear and ginseng—to the US has considerably increased."

Many Americans are familiar with Korean food, and it is common to see New Yorkers frequent Koreatown around lunch time. Kim said, “Korean food is no longer a novelty, at least not in New York where restaurant menus often include bulgogi, bibimbap (rice mixed with assorted vegetables and beef), and sundubu-jjigae (spicy soft tofu stew).”

Kim promised that aT will continuously promote Korean agriproducts through social media and famous YouTube bloggers. They will also hold promotional events in large distributors. “We will spare no effort to establish Korean food as part of the general food culture in the US.”

# Photo Stories of K-Food in New York
 

Various photos of the K-Food Fair and large supermarkets and Korean restaurants in New York demonstrate the popularity of Korean food in the US.

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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