South Korea’s F&B market is characterised by hypermarket domination and growing sales through e-commerce platforms. Grocery retail sales reached GBP 98bn 2013 and e-commerce sales are expected to reach GBP 28bn by 2018. Imported F&B products are growing in popularity and department stores are the main channel for high-end F&B imports. The country’s consumer foodservice industry is the ninth-largest globally, valued at GBP 45bn in 2013 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.4% through 2018.

Impact of the EU-Korea FTA

Implemented in July 2011, the EU-Korea FTA will lead to the removal of 97% of all tariffs for UK exporters. The FTA contains provisions on services, public procurement, intellectual property (IP) and sustainable development as well as the liberalization of goods tariffs. The FTA has ushered in enhanced protection for IP rights and improved copyright regulations.

Potential Opportunities

  • EU agricultural and processed food products have a good reputation with Korean consumers, and the biggest imports include pork, whiskey and dairy products

  • South Korea’s F&B per capita consumption is forecast to grow by CAGR of 5.1% through 2016. Consumption is expected to rise particularly for fruits, nuts and meat

  • Korean consumers increasingly base their purchasing on how “green” F&B products are, which means UK suppliers of these products are particularly well-placed to penetrate the market

  • For packaged food, the highest sales are in meal replacement products for slimming and convalescence products

Case Study: Leading UK Niche Food Manufacturer

The Brief

A leading UK niche food manufacturer already in the Korean market tasked the BCCK with understanding the status of activities, the capabilities of its existing partner, and alternative routes to market.

The Approach

The BCCK first understood the client’s value proposition, establishing its key criteria for partnership including size, reach and complementary products. The BCCK team drew up a target list and met with of a broad range of potential partners and other industry players in order to get a proper understanding of the level of opportunity, most suited partners and the right ongoing strategy in the market.

The Outcome

The BCCK team quickly discovered that the existing partner was not proactively driving the the UK company’s products and lacked the capabilities to properly represent the client in this market. The team put together a short-list of potential partners and after arranging an in-country visit for the client, the BCCK provided the company with a clear set of conclusions and recommendations for alternate routes to market.

Sector Specialist

Inwha Lee

Coordinator, Trade Services

Inwha Lee is a Coordinator in the BCCK’s Trade Services team. Inwha holds two bachelor’s degrees from Korea University in international studies and political science/international relations. Prior to joining the Chamber, Inwha worked at the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) assisting Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects and was also part of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea. While at the BCCK, Inwha has worked with companies in a wide range of sectors from F&B to the creative industries. Her past clients include PizzaExpress, the Casual Dining Group, and Teapigs.   LinkedIn

Email: inwha.lee@bcck.or.kr


“CDG has made a great start in exploring how we might launch CDG brands into the Korean market through the commitment and passion from the team at the BCCK. Their interest in understanding our brands and organisational skills in creating a great two day visit with several key companies has been great. We will continue to work with them as the process continues.” 

– Paul Smith, Director, International Franchising, Casual Dining Group

Some Companies Supported

For More Information

Download our one-page flyer regarding South Korea’s F&B market here.

Enquire more about our services by contacting us at trade@bcck.or.kr.

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