The U.S. is the leading exporter of food and agricultural products to South Korea with 25.5% of the current market share. Learn more about the market and how it has grown and evolved in recent years. And see a variety of upcoming activities we have available for registration.
The U.S. is the leading exporter of food and agricultural products to Korea with 25.5% of the total market share. While there is more competition from other export-oriented countries than ever before, consumer-oriented American products continue to lead the expansion of the export market in Korea.
As with many other markets, Korean consumers are communicating an increased demand for better value, quality, and diversity in their food choices. Products and suppliers that offer good value, high quality, health/nutritional benefits, new and diversified tastes, and convenience are showing strong and continued growth in the market
The Korean market reflects global food trends and there is a lot of opportunity for U.S. exporters with products fit for the market. Especially with the current trade difficulties with China, many U.S. exporters are turning to Korea as an alternative.
In 2018 imports of American consumer-oriented food products to Korea were in growth mode totaling over $4.5 Billion, a 20% increase from the previous year and the highest total on record.
Korea now ranks as the #4 destination for American consumer-oriented food products.
Korea is also a top market for U.S. processed food exports, which totaled over $2.6 Billion in 2018, a 6% increase from the previous year.
Korea now ranks as the 4th largest market for U.S. processed foods.
Advantages for U.S. suppliers of food products in the Korean market include:
Challenges for U.S. suppliers of food products include:
Despite increasing competition, the United States is expected to remain the leading supplier of food and agricultural products to Korea for the foreseeable future.
Free Trade Agreements
The Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) was implemented in 2012, but it is currently in negotiations to revise the agreement. It is believed that the KORUS agreement, coupled with on-going evolvement of the Korea food market, should generate greater export opportunities for American products in Korea in the coming years. You can learn about the KORUS agreement on the website of the United States Trade Representative.
Korean retail sales in the packaged food markets are estimated to reach $27.3 Billion in 2018, which is a $2.6 Billion or 10.5% increase in the last 4 years.
Grocery supermarkets continue to be the leading food retail channel in the Korean market, followed by hypermarket discount stores, convenience stores, on-line retailers, and department stores. On-line retailers and convenience stores are expected to lead the growth of food sales in the industry in the next few years as consumers put more emphasis to convenience and value than ever before.
The outlook for American food exports to the Korean retail sector is extremely positive for a diverse array of products, including:
Food Service Sector
Growth and evolvement of the Korean economy and more urban consumer lifestyles has generated an increased demand for quality, value, and diversity in the Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional (HRI) Food Service sector.
When last reported in 2016, sales for the Food Service sector totaled $106 Billion. Korean households’ monthly per capita spending on dining out has continued to grow for the last few years reaching $123 million in 2017. On average a Korean household spends 47.6% of their food and beverages expenses on dining out.
Convenience is another growing consumer focus and trend in the Korean market as more and more consumers have increasingly busy lives and schedules. Delivery service is a well-developed sector in Korea as consumers don’t want to waste time in the continuous heavy traffic. As mentioned in the Retail Sector section, the use of on-line shopping is continually increasing in the Korean market, including home-delivery by restaurants and bars, as a result of increased demand for convenience.
Food Processing Sector
It is clearly evident in the Korean food processing sector how heavily Korea relies on imports to fulfill its food and agricultural needs. The food processing sector utilizes the majority of the country’s imported ag products including wheat, soy, dairy, and value-added processed products.
When last reported in 2016 the Korean food processing industry generated $67.8 Billion in sales. Popular trends in the Korea food processing sector include convenient and value-for-money food products as well as healthier and higher quality food options. Home meal replacements, private label, and café/bakery markets are expected to continue their growth trend and the processing sector is expected to expand to meet domestic and emerging export market demands.
Want to explore the export potential for your products in Korea but looking to do more research before you proceed? Take advantage of our Market Builder program which provides detailed and customized market research to help your company uncover potential in international markets!
Explore the Korean market with Food Export by your side!
Interested in visiting the Korean market in person? We have an upcoming Focused Trade Mission to the market happening in the Fall and we are offering our Food Show PLUS! tradeshow enhancement services at a variety of tradeshows throughout the rest of 2019.
Focused Trade Mission to Korea for New Lifestyle US Food Products
Food Show PLUS! at Seoul International Wine & Spirits Expo 2019
Food Show PLUS! at Seoul Int Cafe Show 2019
Food Show PLUS! at Food Week 2019
Food Show PLUS! at World Food Expo 2019
Hear from other suppliers who have gone before you and found significant success in the Korean market. Read their Success Stories below.
Food Export Resources
Check out some of the resources we have available online for U.S. suppliers looking to export to Korea.
Enter New Markets
Market Builder – South Korea
Don’t forget that the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) has a variety of helpful reports and information available for free on their website. We’ve linked some of the most relevant reports about Korea below.
Your Connection To Growth®
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