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Demand for DIY meal kits sees on year surge

Sept 17,2019
While the popularity of ready meals in Korea has been growing, it is now meal kits that are seeing an increase in demand and variation.

As more firms jump on the trend of meal kits, which are boxes filled with the correct portions of ingredients necessary to cook a specific dish, suppliers are beginning to offer options that are considered difficult to prepare at home.

Retail giant Emart announced it added jjajangmyeon, Korean-style Chinese noodles in a black bean gravy, and jjampong, a spicy seafood soup dish, to its meal kit lineup on Sunday.

Emart introduced its first series of meal kits in 2017 and has since released around 80 versions, with plans to expand to some 150 by 2022.

Priced at 8,980 won ($8) and 9,980 won, the jjajangmyeon and jjampong meal kits will contain enough ingredients for two servings.

Emart says its in-house brand Peacock’s primary target for meal kits is married couples in their 30s and 40s who have experience traveling abroad and grew up during the rapid development of Korea’s food industry.

It’s not just Emart vying for the top spot in the market. Other retailers have developed their own brands of meal kits like GS Retail’s Simply Cook and Hyundai Department Store’s Chef Box. Emart’s other rivals include food giant CJ Cheiljedang, which launched Cookit in April, and Hanwha Galleria’s Gourmet 494.

Emart said it hopes to expand its meal kit business because it offers “convenience,” and the “fun of cooking.”

Sales of meal kits at Emart from January through August this year jumped 86 percent on year, according to the retailer. The trend is a global one. The on-year market size last year inched up 10.5 percent to 995.9 billion won in Japan and 21.6 percent to 3.53 trillion won in the United States.

“The expansion of meal kit subscriptions is inseparable from the expansion of the distribution of online groceries,” said researcher Moon Kyung-sun from Euromonitor International Korea. “Consumers are expected to actively subscribe to meal kit delivery services, which could help them save time and take away the inconvenience [of shopping]. Since Korea has an established network for home deliveries, meal kit subscriptions is a service with high potential in the country. The early morning delivery system in Korea will help the market expand.”

A spokesperson for Emart said, “with as much potential as the meal kit business has, we plan to continuously release products with excellence in taste to lead the market.”

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]