Food, personal care, homestyle: market trends in new normal in South Korea

Filipino exporters, particularly of food, personal care and homestyle products, are called to seize business opportunities offered by the South Korean market especially under the new normal amid the pandemic.

Jose Ma Dinsay, the Commercial Counselor of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Seoul, said Korea is considered a niche market as far as exports of products and services is concerned due to homogenous culture and characteristics of its population.

“Their consciousness to brands and their consciousness to functions (of their products) so it’s quite a challenge to really penetrate the market but we have some products that have done before because it matched what they require, it matched their interests.

Products like calamansi, coconut water, virgin coconut oil, banana chips, dried mangoes –those products are very popular here in Korea,” he said.

Dinsay cited food trends in South Korea, which include functional foods, do it yourself, home meal replacement, frozen is fresh, specialty food, and packaging to go.

He said there are a lot of functional products in Korea boosting one’s immune system to fight against the coronavirus.

“In the Philippines, we do have a lot of products that have health benefits and this is an area where I think we could look into and develop products that can answer the needs of the market,” he added.

Dinsay said there is also an increase in sales of appliances as more Koreans buy coffee makers, baking equipment, cook wares, among others.

“Since they can’t go to restaurants, they do it (food) at home. Of course, with that, you have an increased sales of coffee beans, increased sales of baking products, meat sauces that you use for cooking at home,” he said.

Dinsay said home-meal replacement is gaining more popularity in South Korea especially amid the pandemic.

“I think companies are starting to develop new products and even more advanced packaging to be able to provide ready home-meal replacement that match the freshness of home-cooked meals. I think it is a trend that will last post-Covid (Coronavirus),” he said.

“I think it’s important for our exporters right now to already seriously look into this kind of product because the behavior and lifestyle of consumers right now, not just in Korea but all over the world, will surely require products like this in the future,” he added.

Dinsay said more Korean consumers now opt products that can easily be stored for a longer time so they do not have to buy often.

“It’s more practical for them and it ensures that the freshness of the product will stay longer. So, this trend for me will also last after Covid and for our manufacturers, this is also an area that you can develop in your own manufacturing,” he said.

As consumers limit their visits to restaurants amid pandemic, Dinsay said specialty food is also increasing in popularity, which include camping food as they also continue going outdoors.

“Most Koreans are staying at home right now. Most of them are alone (so) the tendency for them is to get a pet. Pet food is also one area that is becoming a trend in the country and I’m sure this is also the same for other countries all over the world,” he added.

Dinsay also underscored the key role of packaging in the food industry.

“For restaurants, for example, the only way for them to sell is to provide packed food and the better your packaging is, the more attractive it is for our consumers,” he said.

On personal care trends, Dinsay said Koreans are now more conscious of the ingredients in the beauty products as they would like to ensure these do not cause any bad effects on their health or skin.

“They are more conscious of the ingredients so natural ingredients will be very popular. In this case, we do have a lot of potential here in the Philippines for products like these as we are trying to already develop our natural and organic personal care products,” Dinsay said.

He said a combination of health and hygiene in certain products is also a trend, particularly anti-bacterial sanitizers.

“Companies are adding a health aspect to it like hand moisturizer, hand sanitizer that is also a moisturizer and has vitamin E. You have cleaning tissues, this is used for sanitizing but have added ingredients that are beneficial for your skin like coconut oil. Of course the use of hygienic packaging to ensure that as you use your health or hygienic products, chances of you getting the virus will be lesser,” he added.

On homestyle products, Dinsay said trends include home furnishing, my space, work life balance, and newtro.

He said there is a growth in sales of accents and furnishings in Korea as consumers have more time to decorate their homes due to the pandemic.

“Koreans tend to buy different products that will ensure that those spaces will be divided and will allow them to also function the way it should be as an office or as a play area for their kids,” he added.

As some Koreans can afford bigger homes outside the city, Dinsay said there is a business opportunity for a trend towards bigger furniture and more accents.

“And another trend is camping homes or transportable homes where you have vehicles that also allow you to move anywhere and to stay anywhere you like so you have furniture that also fit these kinds of vehicles,” he said.

Dinsay said a combination of new and retro (newtro) is also very common in South Korea.

“It’s growing in popularity, you see homes or even coffee shops that are more modern in terms of their design but are using furniture that are antiques or vintage style. I think this is also influenced also by Hallyu as Korea tries to introduce and popularize their culture,” he added.

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