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(EN)The Rising Popularity of Meal Kits in South Korea

Updated: Apr 16

You can access the korean version here

In recent years, South Korea has witnessed a remarkable surge in the meal kit market, reflecting a broader global trend towards convenience and health in home cooking. Meal kits, offering pre-portioned ingredients with recipes for home preparation, have become a staple for those seeking both the comfort of home-cooked meals and the convenience of fast food. This blog delves into the growth, demographics, and consumer behavior surrounding meal kits in South Korea, revealing insights into this burgeoning industry.

south korea meal kits

A Market in Bloom

The meal kit industry in South Korea has seen an extraordinary rise. From a modest USD 1.8 million (KRW 2 billion) in 2017, the market swelled to an impressive USD 150.4 million (KRW 188 billion) by 2020, according to the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation. This rapid growth is not a fleeting trend; projections suggest an average annual growth rate of 31% through 2025. Such robust expansion underscores the shifting dynamics of South Korean dietary habits and the growing acceptance of meal kits as a mainstay in the culinary landscape.

Demographics of Demand

The appeal of meal kits transcends generational boundaries but shows a marked variance among different age groups. Surprisingly, a significant 63.0% of consumers in their 50s have embraced meal kits, contrasted with lower adoption rates among the younger cohorts in their 20s and 30s. This divergence could be attributed to the older demographic's preference for home-cooked meals, with meal kits serving as a convenient bridge between traditional cooking and modern-day demands for speed and simplicity.

Consumer Preferences and Behavior

Diving deeper into consumer preferences, “Western” cuisine emerges as the top choice among meal kit selections, with “Steak” dishes consistently leading the pack in 2021. This preference for Western dishes may reflect broader culinary trends and a growing appetite for diverse flavors among South Korean consumers.

Furthermore, purchase patterns reveal that the beginning of the week is prime time for meal kit shopping, as consumers plan their weekly meals. The average purchase frequency stands at 2-3 meal kits per week, highlighting the significant role these products play in the weekly diet of many households.

The shift in sales channels also presents an interesting narrative. While online malls have traditionally dominated meal kit sales, there has been a notable shift towards offline retailers. From April to November 2021, the percentage of consumers buying meal kits from offline stores rocketed from 2.6% to an astonishing 36%. This trend may indicate a desire for tangible selection processes or the appeal of instant gratification offered by physical stores.

Implications for the Future

The rapid ascension of the meal kit market in South Korea signals a transformation in eating habits and consumer preferences. With the convenience of meal kits, combined with a collective lean towards healthier eating, this model offers a promising alternative to both traditional cooking and the fast-food industry.

As the market continues to evolve, it will be interesting to observe how meal kit companies adapt to changing consumer tastes, including the potential introduction of more diverse cuisines, customization options, and eco-friendly packaging solutions. The meal kit phenomenon in South Korea not only mirrors global trends towards convenience and health but also showcases the unique cultural adaptations within the realm of home cooking.

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