The Korea Herald


Ramyeon exports soar to record high in January

Korea sets sights on $1b in instant noodle exports this year

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : Feb. 29, 2024 - 14:16

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Customers browse through Korean ramyeon products on display in Myeongdong, central Seoul, on Jan. 31. (Yonhap) Customers browse through Korean ramyeon products on display in Myeongdong, central Seoul, on Jan. 31. (Yonhap)

Shortly after achieving record-breaking ramyeon export sales last year, Korean instant noodle exports surged significantly by 39.4 percent again in January compared to the same month last year, reaching a total of $86 million.

According to the Korea Customs Service on Thursday, January's performance marks the fifth-largest figure ever, with the highest monthly total to date reaching $91 million, achieved last November.

In 2023, ramyeon exports reached a total of $952 million, increasing a drastic 24.4 percent from the previous year. The figure sets a new export record for the ninth consecutive year from 2015, and has roughly doubled over the past five years, climbing from $470 million in 2019.

Similarly, export volume also roughly doubled from 137,000 tons in 2019, reaching its highest-ever level at 244,000 tons. The figure is equivalent to approximately 2 billion packages of ramyeon, or the cost of over 53,000 medium-sized cars.

Overseas media outlets, as observed by the customs office, noted that the rising demand for instant prepackaged noodles in recent years was propelled by the cost-of-living crisis during the pandemic. Middle-class consumers worldwide, even in regions where such noodle consumption is not deemed traditional, turned to packaged noodles for their affordable prices. The convenience of storage and ease of preparation also emerged as key drivers of this demand at the height of the pandemic, the report said.

Ramyeon was exported to 132 countries last year, of which 73 countries recorded their highest-ever import levels.

Among the top three destinations are China, the United States and the Netherlands.

Countries like China, the Netherlands, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and India have set new export records for four consecutive years since 2020.

In particular, exports to the Netherlands have surged 8.7 times since the onset of the pandemic, acting as a gateway to Europe. While exports to Africa remain relatively modest, they are witnessing a sixfold increase, with rising demand observed across all regions.

The report attributes ramyeon’s global expansion to the continued interest in Korean content such as dramas and movies in general. Additionally, the rise of popular challenges voluntarily undertaken by social media users worldwide is analyzed as a core contributing factor to the uptick in exports.

The Korea Customs Service anticipates ramyeon exports to surpass $1 billion this year, which would set a new record for the tenth consecutive year.

Meanwhile, the nation's leading ramyeon maker, Nongshim, achieved a sales record last year with Shin Ramyun, reaching a combined domestic and international sales figure of 1.21 trillion won ($906 million). Of the total, 59 percent originated from overseas sales, marking a trend since 2021 of overseas sales exceeding domestic sales.

In a similar vein, Samyang Foods reported record-breaking sales of 1.19 trillion won last year, with 70 percent of its revenue coming from overseas markets. The food manufacturer has attributed the upbeat global sales to its bestselling Buldak series abroad, particularly in China and Europe.