South Korea has become the second country, following Denmark, to announce an ambitious plan aimed at transforming the way we produce and consume food. The South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs recently revealed a comprehensive strategy to bolster the plant-based food industry and promote alternatives to traditional animal-based proteins. This initiative reflects the growing global trend toward plant-based foods and a recognition of the need for a more sustainable food system.
The plant-based food revolution has been gathering momentum worldwide, driven by increasing consumer awareness of animal welfare, environmental concerns, and a desire for healthier dietary options. South Korea has chosen to embrace this movement, with a bold vision for the future. According to The Korea Bizwire, the South Korean government envisions the global plant-based food market to reach a staggering 35 trillion won within the next decade, signaling its commitment to fostering growth in this sector.
South Korea’s plan includes several key components. The strategy encompasses the establishment of a research center dedicated to alternative proteins, initiatives to encourage the use of domestically grown agricultural products in plant-based foods, and Support for exporting these alternative products. This multi-pronged approach aims to boost innovation, reduce dependency on imports, and bolster the nation’s role in the global plant-based food market.
As part of its National Plan 2022, the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has, for the first time, included official guidance for alternative proteins, which encompasses cultivated meat. The launch of the plant-based food plan is expected later this year in December, signaling the country’s commitment to this transformative journey.
South Korea’s plant-based food industry has witnessed significant growth in recent years, particularly in the plant-based category. According to data from the Korea Institute of Rural Economics, the country’s plant-based market is projected to reach 280 billion won by 2026. This statistic aligns with the global trend, as the global plant-based food market is forecast to reach $17.8 billion by 2025. These numbers underscore the potential for growth in this industry.
Fueling the demand for plant-based products is a younger generation increasingly concerned about animal welfare and sustainability. According to the Vegan Society, South Korea boasts approximately 250 brands that have collectively registered almost 3,000 products with the Vegan Society Trademark, indicating a strong commitment to meet evolving consumer preferences.
A testament to the industry’s success is the proliferation of homegrown South Korean brands, which have made a substantial impact. UNLIMEAT, Nongshim’s Veggie Garden, Devotion Foods, Shinsegae Foods’ Better Meat, and Dongwon F&B’s My Plant are just a few examples of companies that have taken the lead in producing high-quality plant-based options. CJ Cheiljedang, known for its plant-based dumplings under the Bibigo brand, reported a remarkable $8.2 billion in sales last year, highlighting the market’s financial potential.
The transition to plant-based offerings extends beyond retail products to the food service industry as well. South Korea’s largest fast-food burger chain, LOTTERIA, introduced a new version of its plant-based burger, the Ria Miracle Burger, at all of its 1,300 locations in the country this year. Moreover, Korean Air, one of South Korea’s leading airlines, has introduced a range of vegan inflight meals across all its international routes departing from Korea, catering to travelers seeking ethical and sustainable dining options. Starbucks Korea has also witnessed a surge in demand, with over 100,000 newly introduced plant-based dishes sold in just two weeks in July.
“Plant-based is becoming a global megatrend. We project the global plant-based food market to grow up to 35 trillion won in the next ten years,” stated Jung Hyun-hak, head of CJ CheilJedang’s plant-based food business, during a press conference. His statement captures the essence of the global shift towards plant-based foods, a movement now fully embraced by South Korea as it takes significant steps to foster growth and innovation within this industry.
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