SEOUL, March 18 (Korea Bizwire) – The spread of western eating habits is introducing Koreans to a new world of cheese. Once thought of as the greasy and smelly ingredient that made western food ‘western’, cheese is now being integrated into the lives of Koreans, creating new types of dishes as well as new opportunities in the market.
According to data collected by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the consumption of cheese more than doubled from 44,897 tons in 2000 to 118,067 tons in 2014. Over the same period, annual cheese consumption jumped 2.5 times from 0.94 kilograms to 2.4 kilograms per person.
The increased demand for cheese has pushed the food service industry to launch new products that make use of the newly favored ingredient.
Ashley, the buffet restaurant, selected cheese to be the theme of its new spring menu. Pizza franchises such as Papa John’s are increasing cheese portions in their products. Jaws Tteokbokki, a spicy stir-fried rice cake franchise, has launched a new dish sprinkled with gouda cheese.
Now that the door has been thrown open, cheese is boldly going where it never has before – to desserts. Cheese is now being used in drinks, shaved ice treats, parfaits and smoothies, fulfilling consumers’ guilty pleasures.
Café Bene sold more than 100,000 of its Strawberry Cheese Parfaits within 50 days of the product’s launch. The dessert is a spin-off of its shaved ice treats topped with cheese cake, which have proven to be popular among women. SPC group’s Café Pascucci launched its Strawberry Cheese Cake Shake, following the trend.
While various cheese treats and dishes are becoming popular, cheese – natural, unprocessed cheese in particular – is showing significant sales growth, indicating potential for new possibilities in the Korean market.
According to data from Neilson, the domestic cheese market grew by three percent in 2014 (320.7 billion won) compared to the previous year. The natural cheese market showed a more impressive 30 percent growth during the past two years, with a sales increase of over 13 billion won.
The spread of western food and wine culture has boosted consumer demand for natural cheese. Industry watchers expect that the products will offer new opportunities in the domestic cheese market.
According to data from 2013 collected by Euro Monitor, the market research institute, 64 percent of the Korean cheese market is dominated by imported natural cheeses.
To take the lead in the new market, businesses such as Pulmuone, Maeil and Sangha are launching natural cheese brands and heating up the competition. The success of these new ventures, particularly against foreign competition, remains to be seen.
By Francine Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)