COVID-19 proving lucrative for Korean food brands in India, says GlobalData

While the Korean culture wave or ‘hallyu’ has been slowly making inroads into urban India since many years, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for Korean cuisine. This growing fascination for Korean food reflects the openness of the Indian youth to embrace foreign culture and cuisine, as revealed by GlobalData’s Q2 2021 consumer survey*. With their experimentative and adventurous palates, millennials are spearheading the Korean food trend in India, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

During the COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions, consumers began spending more time online – a trend that has persisted as reflected by GlobalData’s Q3 2021 consumer survey**, wherein 31% of Indian consumers confessed that they are spending time online more frequently. In the absence of new domestic movies and TV series releases due to the pandemic, consumers took to watching older webcasts including South Korean dramas (K-dramas) on streaming sites and dedicated apps.

These K-drama fans began going online searching for recipes of popular Korean dishes such as ‘kimchi’, ‘japchae’, ‘kimbap’, and ‘ramyeon’. This spurred orders for packaged ‘ready-to-eat’ Korean foods and ingredients in retail stores and e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, and BigBasket. Unsurprisingly, Korikart, an exclusively Korean e-commerce portal launched in Delhi in 2018, recently reported an exponential increase in demand for Korean noodles and other Korean products since March 2020.

Food aggregators Swiggy and Zomato have also recorded an increase in their orders for Korean food since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. However, the premium prices of Korean dishes, and the limited choice of authentic Korean restaurants, has hitherto subdued the ‘on-trade’ sales of Korean food.

Nonetheless, more Korean eateries are popping up to tap the hallyu wave – one of the latest being ‘Goguryeo’, which opened in Hyderabad in October 2021. As the number of restaurants and cafés offering Korean fare increases, and competition driving down prices, Korean food is expected to achieve mainstream appeal.

Bobby Verghese, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, says: “Urban India’s new-found fancy for Korean brands shows no signs of abating any time soon, particularly with the negative consumer sentiment towards Chinese goods due to the recent Sino-Indian border conflict. This presents an innovative opportunity for domestic and overseas HoReCa players and food manufacturers who are striving to make a fresh start, or a comeback in the Indian market following the pandemic lull.

“For instance, South Korean food giant Orion launched its direct-to-consumer (D2C) website in October 2021 to coincide with the start of the festive season in India, anticipating a surge in shopper traffic. Orion claims it received 500–1,000 visitors per day during the pilot launch.”

*Data taken from GlobalData Q2 2021 Consumer Survey – India (June 2021) with 541 respondents

**Data taken from GlobalData Q3 2021 Consumer Survey – India (September 2021) with 567 respondents

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