SEOUL, March 30 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea imported a record amount of beer last year as more consumers preferred various flavors beyond the lager-dominated domestic brands and discount stores offer aggressive price promotions, data showed Wednesday.
Inbound shipments of beer reached 170,919 tons worth US$142 million in 2015, up 27 percent from a year ago, according to the data compiled by the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation (aT).
Chinese beer, heralded by Qingdao, saw a 70.6 percent on-year surge in imports, beating the Netherlands to take third place.
Among European brands, imports of French beer more than doubled during the period as sweet, aromatic wheat beer has captivated the taste buds of drinkers.
“The imported beer market has grown in line with diversified appetites as a rising number of people travel abroad to experience foreign culture and their income levels have risen,” aT said in the report.
The consumer preference has shifted from lager, the dominant type of beer made by local brands, to hoppy, bitter ale and other craft beer over the past years. The domestic market is mostly dominated by two big players — Hite Jinro and OB.
The lower tariff implemented following a series of free trade agreements with Europe and the U.S. also helped boost price competitiveness of imported beer, along with a variety of promotional events held by major discount stores, aT said.
Sales of imported beer at E-Mart and No. 3 Lotte Mart accounted for 43.2 percent and 34.2 percent, respectively, last year, while the corresponding figures for domestic brands slipped, according to the companies.