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K-Food Reaches the Emerging MarketsMAFRA and aT Establish Offices in India, Brazil, and Three Other Countries

First Export of Kimchi to India and Soybean Milk Distribution in South Africa Achieved through Efforts of Young People
As part of their efforts to stimulate a demand for Korean agriproducts and expand export markets, MAFRA (the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs) and aT (Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation) selected 25 emerging nations as its target at the end of last year. This year, they have been prioritizing market cultivation in India, Brazil, Kazakhstan, South Africa, and Italy. aT established offices in the five countries and dispatched young people from AFLO (Agrifood Frontier Leader Organization) there. AFLO members have been carrying out Korean food promotions and export consultations and already achieved considerable success. Below, Korea Agrafood introduces our readers to export activities of MAFRA and aT in emerging markets and discusses promising Korean products with AFLO members.

□Cultivating Emerging Markets for Korean Products
MAFRA and aT strive to raise the awareness of Korean agriproducts in emerging markets through various events such as Korean food experiences for local consumers, promotional activities at big distributors, and export consultations between local buyers and Korean food exporters.

In Italy, a country famous for its gastronomical culture, MARFA and aT focus on promoting Korean fermented foods―such as gochujang (red pepper paste), doenjang (soybean paste), kimchi, and makgeolli (rice wine)―to local opinion leaders and famous chefs. The latter are now showing a growing interest in recipes using Korean fermented foods. In India, the second most populous country in the world, the two agencies promote Hansik (Korean traditional cuisine). AFLO members have introduced local young consumers to Korean spicy dishes, such as tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake), dak-gangjeong (sweet and spicy chicken), and kimchi-bokkeumbap (kimchi fried rice), and received positive reviews.

In the Republic of South Africa, promotional activities are held at the country’s largest retailer, Spar. Local consumers appreciate the high quality of Korean processed foods such as ramyeon (instant noodles), snacks, and beverages. Korean traditional foods and alcoholic beverages are attracting much attention in Brazil. They especially enjoy fusion cocktails made by mixing Korean traditional alcoholic drinks (such as makgeolli) with tropical fruits. A variety of Korean products including grapes, tangerines, tteokbokki, and traditional foods such as sauces and kimchi are being introduced to consumers in Kazakhstan where Korean pop culture enjoys high popularity. The response to tangerines, yuja (citron) tea, and tteokbokki has been particularly positive.

AFLO members are making considerable contributions to the promotion of Korean foods in emerging markets. Dispatched for three months at a time, they play a supporting role in marketing research, potential buyer identification, and export consultations. Thanks to their efforts, Korean kimchi has been able to advance to India for the first time and Korean soybean milk products have appeared on shelves of the largest distributor of South Africa. AFLO members have also helped exports of Korean tteokbokki and seasoned seaweed to the Italian market.

□Promising Korean Agriproducts in the Five Emerging Markets

◎ Italy
- Current Status and Consumption Trends

With its signature pastas and pizzas, Italy, the world's eighth largest economy and the home of many famous tourist attractions, is one of the leaders of European food culture. Due to a strong sense of pride in its own food, Italy does not import many foreign food products. However, thanks to the popularity of K-pop and the influence of Hallyu (the Korean Wave), exports of Korean food to Italy have increased sharply from US$ 11.8 million in 2014 to US$ 54.2 million last year. The country imports from Korea mostly marine products such as tuna and fish cake.

These days, interest in ethnic foods and healthy foods such as gluten-free products is increasing in Italy. In addition, excellence of Korean food is touted in many local media. As a result, recognition of Korean food is on the rise. An increasing number of local consumers are frequenting Korean restaurants in big cities such as Milan.

- Interview with Kim Sun-kyung, A Member of the First Batch of AFLO in Italy
"Gluten-free, processed rice products have a high potential of advancing into the Italian market“

My main tasks were to conduct Italian food market research, find local buyers, and implement Korean export marketing strategies. The experience that I have found most rewarding was aiding in the advance of four products into the Italian market including seasoned dried seaweed and processed rice products. A K-food tasting event targeting consumers in their teens and 20s who are interested in Korean culture was also memorable.

I believe Korean seasoned seaweed, processed rice products, and yuja (citrus) tea have a high potential to advance into the Italian food market. Seasoned seaweed can succeed because there is a great number of sushi restaurants in Milan, and I think supplying Korean seaweed as an ingredient to these restaurants is a good idea since it beats its Japanese rivals in terms of price, taste, and quality. Furthermore, Korean processed rice products are gluten-free and thus suitable for this market where the demand for gluten-free food is high. At the actual tasting event, a rice-based beverage and rice snacks received many favorable reviews. Sweet and sour yuja-ade can appeal to Italian people who enjoy cool and sweet drinks.

* Recommended products: seasoned seaweed, processed rice products, yuja tea, and yuja-ade


◎ India
- Current Status and Consumption Trends

India, with its 1.28 billion people, is the world's second most populated country and the third largest economy in the world, with a recent annual economy growth rate (based on GDP) of 7%. Due to this outstanding growth, the consumption of instant and convenience food, washed fruits and vegetables, and imported food has greatly increased among young people in their 20s to 30s who account for more than half of the country’s population.

In the last three years, exports of Korean food to India have been on the rise, recording an increase of 16% on average. Last year, the country imported US$ 46.9 million worth of Korean food products. The influence of the Korean Wave has made some Korean processed products such as instant ramyeon (instant noodles) and Chocopie (chocolate pies) quite popular among local young people. India is also a major importer of vegetable seeds from Korea. In 2016, the country imported US$ 7.2 million in Korean vegetable seeds.

- Interview with Noh Yong-jin, A Member of the First Batch of AFLO in India
"Spicy-sweet dak-gangjeong is popular among Indian consumers“

I mainly conducted research on the Indian dining market and promoted Korean food products. An event held at the Korean Cultural Center introduced 14 kinds of Korean products including dak-gangjeong (deep-fried crispy chicken), tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake), kimchi, and mushrooms to about 100 Indian consumers. The response was even more encouraging than what we expected; we received many purchasing inquiries from local buyers.

 

I recommend yakgwa (deep-fried honeyed cookie), dak-gangjeong, and instant coffee as the most appropriate products for the local market. Yakgwa is similar in taste to mithai, a traditional Indian snack; it is offered in small packages and can be stored for a long time. Dak-gangjeong is another candidate because it turns out that Indians like spicy-sweet flavors. There is also a growing demand in India for instant foods. Korean instant coffee, sweet in taste and convenient in storage, is expected to prosper given the recent increase in India’s demand for coffee and the fact that local people tend to add sugar and milk to coffee.

* Recommended products: yakgwa, dak-gangjeong, and instant coffee



◎ Brazil
- Current Status and Consumption Trends

Brazil is often associated with soccer and samba. It is one of the most populous countries in the world, with 270 million people as of July 2017. Brazil is also the biggest importer of agriproducts in South America. Many Brazilians consider imported food to be healthier and safer than domestic offerings and the quality of domestically produced processed food as unreliable.

Strong-tasting foods with sweet and salty flavors are very popular in Brazil. Among Korean products, local consumers prefer ice cream, aloe drinks, and snacks. These products are distributed in large cities such as Sao Paulo and purchased mainly by young female consumers in their teens and 20s who are fascinated by the Korean Wave. Korean pears have recently made inroads into the country.

- Interview with Terry Lee, A Member of the First AFLO Batch in Brazil
"We need to introduce seasoned Korean seaweed to Brazilian consumers who enjoy having snacks with beer“

I arranged export consultations and buyer meetings as well as provided interpretation services to help Korean exporters enter the Brazilian market. I engaged in all kinds of tasks related to export consultation: collecting information on the Brazilian food market, drafting promotional leaflets, inviting buyers, and interpreting at the actual consultations. I made every effort to help Korean foods such as seasoned seaweed, traditional pastes and sauces, and fresh pears enter the market.



 

Although the awareness of Korean food in Brazil is not high, I think it has great potential. Considering the fact that many Brazilians enjoy beer with snacks, more promotional efforts are needed to advertise seasoned Korean seaweed and seaweed snacks. Vinegar drinks are also highly promising and have no rivals. They taste sweet-and-sour and have few calories, so they can be introduced here as healthy drinks. It will also help to inform Brazilian consumers how to make cocktails using these vinegar drinks and vodka.

* Recommended products: seasoned seaweed, seaweed snacks, and vinegar drinks





◎ The Republic of South Africa
- Current Status and Consumption Trends

The Republic of South Africa is one of the emerging countries collectively known as BRICS. It boasts the largest economy on the African continent and is a gateway to the continent as most products make their way to the continent through South Africa. Furthermore, many overseas Chinese, the main consumers of Korean food, live there and it is still considered a relatively easy market to penetrate.

South African consumers are generally fond of spicy-sweet food. However, the demand for healthy food is recently increasing among consumers in the middle-age and upper-income groups. The demand for special types of food such as halal, kosher, and vegan is also growing. Kimchi, ramyeon, and Korean beverages are currently distributed in South Africa, but the consumption is generally low due to poor awareness of Korean food overall.

- Interview with Hector, A Member of the First AFLO Batch in South Africa
"Helping the first export of Korean soymilk to South Africa”


My main responsibilities included discovering promising products and analyzing customs clearance regulations on food in South Africa. It was an honor to contribute to the very first export of Korean soymilk to Spar, the largest retailer in South Africa. It also felt rewarding to promote Korean snacks, ramyeon, and bulgogi (sliced and seasoned beef barbeque) sauces.



 

Based on the market survey I conducted for three months, I would choose ramyeon, red ginseng drinks, and soymilk as Korean food products that have the best chance to succeed in this country. Vegetarian ramyeon, in particular, is attracting the attention of consumers with a higher income level, and I think the exports can be increased if supported by continuous promotional efforts. There is a variety of functional health foods selling at drugstores around the country, and young people consume a relatively large amount of energy drinks, so promoting Korean red ginseng drinks can yield good results. Offering diverse types of soymilk products, such as pine nut soymilk and black sesame soymilk, based on preferences of South African consumers, can further accelerate the advance of Korean soymilk products.


* Recommended products: ramyeon, red ginseng drinks, and soymilk

◎ Kazakhstan
- Current Status and Consumption Trends

Kazakhstan, one with the largest economies in Central Asia, possesses abundant natural resources, including crude oil, and is expected to make great strides in the future. The popularity of K-pop and Korean dramas is very high there especially among young people, and many consumers have a positive impression of Korean food. There is also a large number of ethnic Koreans who settled in Kazakhstan long ago and have been keeping the traditions of Korean food, so Korean cuisine is hardly new there.

The most actively distributed Korean product in the country is ramyeon, which has many fans among young people interested in the Korean Wave. aT (Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corporation) hosted an event under the theme "Taste of Korea" in Almaty last September. It was designed to promote various products including grapes, ginseng, tteokbokki, and seasoned seaweed. All of these products received favorable reviews and demonstrated good potential in the local market.

- Interview with Ham Si-hong, A Member of the First AFLO Batch in Kazakhstan
"With over 3,000 participants, the Korean food festival was a great success“

I think Kazakhstan is a valid target for Korean food exports because young people in the country like the Korean Wave and have a good image of Korea overall. A Korean festival was held there under the theme "Vkusnaya Korea," which literally means “delicious Korea.” Hosted in the largest Kazakhstan city of Almaty last July, it attracted 3,000 consumers. They demonstrated interest in kimchi, bulgogi, tteokbokki, and several other products.

 

For three months in Almaty, I conducted market surveys. Based on my findings, I would like to recommend Korean fresh fruit, some winter fruit in particular, such as strawberry and tangerine. In this country, the consumption of high-end fruit is steadily rising in the high-income bracket, and the consumer preference for imported fruit is also high. However, fruits selling in the winter season are few in variety and too expensive. Given this situation, I think Korean strawberries and tangerines which have a high sugar content can be highly competitive in the market.

* Recommended products: fresh fruit including strawberries and tangerines

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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