The Korea Herald


Korean businesses show greater appetite for vegan foods

By Byun Hye-jin

Published : Sept. 28, 2022 - 16:03

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Forest Kitchen’s dining menu displayed at Lotte World Tower in Songpa-gu, Seoul (Nongshim) Forest Kitchen’s dining menu displayed at Lotte World Tower in Songpa-gu, Seoul (Nongshim)

With fast-growing interest in eco-friendly lifestyles, South Korean food companies are expanding plant-based menu items and restaurants to cater to the growing global vegan population of some 180 million.

Nongshim, the country’s leading instant noodle maker, said Thursday it has launched eight kinds of plant-based "cup rice" (rice bowl with toppings), and porridge, in partnership with vegan restaurant Doosoogobang.

Instead of spicy meat, cup rice comes with toppings such as namul (seasoned vegetables), mushrooms and dried radish leaves. Other menu items include red bean, black sesame and soybean paste rice porridge.

Shinsegae Food recently showcased its latest vegan food products like canned ham, meatballs, patties and cold cut meats at the Plant-Based World Expo. The company plans to boost its global business with its wholly owned US subsidiary, Better Foods, and invest $10 million by early next year to establish the global infrastructure needed to produce plant-based meat products.

CJ CheilJedang also vowed to boost its overseas and domestic sales of plant-based meat products to 200 billion won ($151.9 million) by 2025. Its vegan brand Plantable offers plant-based dumplings, meatballs, tteokgalbi (beef patties) and bulgogi rice balls.

Food makers are meeting the demands of consumers seeking high-quality vegan meals at brick-and-mortar restaurants as well.

Nongshim opened the vegan fine dining restaurant Forest Kitchen in May and offers a wide range of plant-based lunch and dinner courses with meat alternatives including eggplant, seaweed, buckwheat, cucumber and other vegetables.

The company’s rival, Pulmuone, in the same month unveiled its vegan restaurant Plantude, offering more cost-effective options including a plant-based katsu, lasagna, bibimbap, bulgogi and tofu karaage.

“Compared to other countries, the South Korean vegan market is relatively small, but it is starting to show considerable growth potential driven by those who are interested in animal welfare, a healthy lifestyle and the environment,” said Cho Mi-sook, a food and nutrition professor at Ewha Womans University.

According to data from market tracker Euromonitor Korea, the domestic vegan food market is expected to grow to 14.1 billion won this year and 18.1 billion won by 2025.